Art News magazine, now featuring Ringling Museum’s Veronese show, rightly points that circus king and museum founder John Ringling was a Veronese fan. Both were showman, after all. They both ¬loved the grandiose and the garish. It’s no wonder, then, that Ringling bought Veronese’s 8-foot-tall, brightly-colored painting “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt.”
But there’s far more to Veronese than bold painting. There was his bold way of dealing with the Inquisition when accused for taking liberties with Bible stories. And except for a parenthetic one-sentence reference, Art News said nothing more of it. Minimizing this is no small thing given today’s harsh culture wars between the secular and the religious and Veronese success in winning the war in his time.
How? He devised a way to escaped punishment as inventively as he painted.
When asked why he painted a dog instead of the Magdalene in “The Last Supper,” he said, “I did not feel that a figure of the Magdalene would look good there.” Behold! The artist speaks. He’ talked about aesthetics.
And even though Veronese lost this argument before the court and was ordered to correct the painting within 90 days or be punished, he avoided compromising his art by simply re-naming the picture. www.examiner.com/article/is-a-picture-worth-a-thousand-words-or-notInstead of the Last Supper, he re-titled it “The Feast in the House of Levi” by which it’s known to this day.
Andre Serrano could have followed Venornese’s example and re-named his controversial photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine – his protest against the commercialization of Christ – he called “Piss Christ.”
Knowing Veronese’s way of thinking can help Ringling Museum visitors appreciate the Biblical event pictured in “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt.” While you see the Madonna nursing her Child, Veronese also shows you colorfully-robed, winged angels picking dates from the trees, which lend the scene a party-air. With Veronese’s responses to the Inquisition in mind, you know that he dressed angels in red and showed them cavorting to enliven and otherwise decorate his picture.