Today I went to the National Gallery and saw the Veronese exhibition Magnificence in Renaissance Venice. I’d read a bit about it and heard the review on Front Row and, of course, I love Italian Renaissance art so everything was clearly forcing me in the direction. I am so glad I went.
Of course, the tickets are timed (read back over previous attempts to visit timed exhibits) but I figured Tuesday morning at 10am would be pretty safe from any undesired crowding. And I was right. There was never more than seven people in a room at a time while I was there. And that includes the guard. AND ME!
And the day was beautiful as well, making the ferry trip in as close to the perfect commute as you can get.
Even Trafalgar Square was looking lovely and bright and clear.
The big blue cockerel you can see on the fourth plinth is, apparently, meant to symbolise regeneration and strength. It was created by German artist Katharina Fritsch. It is VERY blue. It’s also very big. Here’s a close up of it.
Artists can be a bit weird, sometimes. Not so Veronese! The man was amazing. Born in 1528, the son of a stone cutter he started off in Verona but by the time he was 30, he’d moved to Venice, where all the action was. A few times he fell foul of the Inquisition but he always had an answer for them and managed to avoid being tortured in some inhuman, Catholic way. Eventually he died aged 60, leaving behind him an amazing legacy of wonderful paintings.
50 of his works are included in this exhibition. A lot of them are religious…obviously. I mean, like all the great renaissance artists, he had to do religious work if he wanted to make any money.
He was a dab hand at faces. He somehow had the knack for making his subjects appear to be thinking deeply about something that we, the viewer, can only guess at. I rather liked the painting depicting the baby Christ slipping a ring on St Catherine’s finger. I like it because the Virgin Mary looks bored to tears. It looks like she’s been sitting with a squawking baby on her lap all day and the last thing she needs is some woman wanting a ring put on her finger.
Mary also looks remarkably like the actress, Susannah Harker. She was Jane in the best BBC P&P. She was also Jo in Chancer. I think it’s quite uncanny.
However, as lovely as this painting is, my favourite one in the exhibition has to be the Judith and Holofernes. It’s my second favourite Bible story. I love the way the fearless Judith decided to use her female charms to save the city of Bethulia. She enticed, seduced then diced the nasty Assyrian captain, Holofernes as he slept off his sexual prowess…clearly there wasn’t any other Assyrian captains so the army went home, leaving Judith to enjoy a full and happy life.
I don’t actually know (or care) what happened to Judith but at least she’s not depicted killing herself because she had sex with him. That happens far too often. Her story is clean, swift and simple. And Veronese depicts her as quite ravishing (or is that ravished?).
Of course, no renaissance painter worth his salt would go through an entire career without painting at least one St Sebastien. And Veronese was no exception…except, there wasn’t one of them in this exhibition. There is, however, a few in the exhibition book I bought. Here’s a detail of one of them.
All in all, it was a marvellous exhibition and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Emerging into the sunlight, I was intrigued by this group posed on the bottom of Nelson’s Column. Such a cool idea.
I didn’t care enough to hang around so I was soon off to the DLR for the trip back to the flat. It was while I was sitting, reading as the train came into Canary Wharf station that I realised what a lovely day it was. So, rather than get off at South Quay and have lunch in the flat, I stayed on, all the way to Greenwich. At Greenwich I bought myself some delicious sushi and sat by the river, reading and eating. It was a very pleasant way to spend lunchtime.
Just like dinner, which we had at Canteen. An all round lovely day.