Paolo Veronese

Paolo Veronese
(Verona 1528–1588 Venice)

Group of Figures for a Ceiling Decoration

Inscribed at lower right, in pen and brown ink, di Paolo V.

Black chalk, brown wash, heightened with wet white chalk

Purchased as the gift of the Fellows with the special assistance of Mrs. Gerrit P. Van de Bovenkamp, 1981

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Veronese's secular history paintings fall into two groups: his state commissions for the Ducal Palace and St. Mark's Library, and his decoration of villas and palaces belonging to Venetian nobility. His greatest accomplishment of the first group is the Triumph of Venice in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio. At the left of this exploratory sketch for the project, the figure of Venice is being crowned by Victory.

Veronese frequently used chalk after arriving in Venice in 1553, although pen and ink remained his preferred medium.

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The astonishing creative efflorescence of sixteenth-century Venice would not have been possible without a rich network of civic, religious, and governmental support. The republic was governed by a hereditary ruling class under the leadership of a doge—generally a member of the inner circle of powerful local families whom the aristocracy appointed for life. Venice celebrated itself and proclaimed its civic ideals in large paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Federico Zuccaro that lined the walls of the Doge's Palace. Wealthy lay confraternities, called scuole, provided another essential layer of support and promoted a distinctively Venetian style of large narrative composition. Finally, a powerful and enlightened aristocracy commissioned works for their private dwellings in town and on the mainland. Whereas Giovanni Bellini and his followers had primarily produced altarpieces and religious images for personal devotion, this new generation of Venetian artists also met the demands of their expanding clientele for secular subject matter.