How does the Renaissance artist, Paolo Veronese, portray old men, they ask. Exhibition at the British National Gallery . (The elder king and St. Simeon)
The British National Gallery Exhibition of paintings by artist Paolo Caliari from 19 March – 15 June 2014.
The director's "view" on the faces of old men was fascinating and worth the listen.
He notes that Paolo Veronese, by name of Paolo Caliari (born 1528, Verona, Republic of Venice [Italy]—died April 9, 1588, Venice), took care to paint older men with dignity and noble expression.
He talks about how the white in the beard of the eldest king glistens just as wonderfully as it does on the fingertips of the Christ Child and elsewhere. That the flesh tones and facial features (wrinkle, veins and all) contain an exuberance of life that one might see more often in the portraits of younger men. The director, who is also advancing in age (note the gray hairs), is zealous about making this point.
Veronese honored these older men, he surmises. They were not marginalized or demeaned. By portraying them gracefully, both the artist and director imply that an older man has much to offer.
Veronese had his share of controversy, consider The Feast in the House of Levi (1573), but he was also highly commended for works very "well done."
In the the iconography tradition a person is depicted "transfigured" or as they are in heaven, so to speak. Their "earthly flaws" (with notable exceptions) are removed.
To me, a most inspiring prototype exemplifying the image of the "new man" is that of the elderly, St. Simeon Theodochos (Simeon the God-receiver), as painted by "perhaps, the most important Cretan icon painter of the second half of the 16th century" Damaskinos Michail (1535-93); a contemporary of Veronese.
The "wisdom" lines are there, of course, but note the eyes and how much they say. Perhaps this "elder" king of Veronese, offered a similar prayer as that of St Simeon.
"And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation" (LK 2:30).
(The "doddering" St Matthew of Caravaggio link)
More Commentary from the National Gallery
Veronese's paintings are magnificent visions of opulence, spectacle and colour. Having once adorned churches, palaces, villas and public buildings throughout the Veneto region, they are inseparable from our vision of Renaissance Venice.
The exhibition is a visual feast of around 50 of these works. It marks the most significant collection of masterpieces by the artist ever to be displayed in the UK, with some major loans traveling to London from across the globe.
Many of the paintings are enormous in size, and required a large-scale re-hang of the Gallery’s collection to accommodate, and some are reunited in the exhibition for the first time in hundreds of years.
About the artist Paolo Caliari (1528–1588) of Verona (hence ‘Veronese’) was one of the most renowned and sought-after artists working in Venice in the 16th century. A virtuoso and a craftsman, Veronese created works ranging from complex frescoes to altarpieces, devotional paintings, mythological, allegorical and historical pictures, and portraits.
It was in Venice, endorsed by Titian, and working alongside Jacopo Sansovino and Andrea Palladio, that Veronese was established as one of the leading artists in Europe. His posthumous reputation has been as consistently high as his influence has been strong.
The work of Van Dyck, Rubens, Watteau, Tiepolo and Delacroix depend upon his example.
Learn more about Paolo Veronese
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