Paolo Veronese

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Portrait of a Man, Paolo Veronese (c. 1577), thought to be a self-portrait

Paolo Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter, a previous embodiment of the ascended master Paul the Venetian.

Early life

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Temptation of Saint Anthony

Born in 1528, Paolo Caliari became known as Veronese after his birthplace, Verona, Italy. The Caliari ancestors were artists, and Paolo’s father determined that his son should become a sculptor. So Paolo was first apprenticed as a stonecutter, his father’s trade. With unusual dexterity for one so young, he changed mere clay into remarkable statuettes.

Then, at the age of fourteen, he showed such a marked interest in painting that he was apprenticed to a painter named Antonio Badile, whose daughter Elena he later married. From Badile, Veronese derived a sound basic painting technique as well as a passion for paintings in which people and architecture were integrated. He had found his vocation in painting and devoted himself to master the techniques of Dürer and other renaissance artists.

His fellow artists soon recognized his skill. He was commissioned, while a young lad, to paint a Madonna for the church in San Bernardino. Cardinal Gonzaga was so impressed by the masterpiece that he asked Paolo to compete with the distinguished painters of Verona to decorate the cathedral at Mantua. His painting, Temptation of Saint Anthony, was so magnificent, that he was established as a peer among the artists of Verona.

Venice

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Coronation of the Virgin

In 1553, at the age of twenty-five, Veronese went to Venice and launched on a long collaboration with the Venetian authorities in connection with the decoration of different parts of the Palazzo Ducale. The walls of the imposing palaces in Venice were often adorned with murals and works of art by Venetian masters.

At that time, Venice, the Queen City of the Adriatic, was at the height of its cultural glory. It offered greater opportunity for artistic expression as the emphasis shifted from religion to the classical culture reflected in the painting, sculpture and architecture of the period. The Polo brothers had returned from the East with a bountiful supply of extravagant goods—spices, fine silks, precious jewels and oriental carpets. A lively trade had sprung up between the merchants of Venice and Cathay.

One might suppose that in this atmosphere the sensitive Paolo would naturally absorb and imitate the accomplishments of his contemporaries who had set the standard for the world. But not so! Veronese was a spiritual revolutionary who waged battle against the forces of anti-life in the arts. He did not conform to tradition but was an exponent of a beauty distinctively his own. It was a momentum gathered from many embodiments of the remote past.

In 1555, Veronese began the decoration of San Sebastiano, the church that was to become his burial place. His painting The Coronation of the Virgin rated him second to none among Venetian artists. From this time on, successive masterpieces emanated from his brush without interruption. All of Venice was astounded by his genius. He became a painter of mythical and historical figures as well as religious scenes. His biblical characters were beautifully garbed and set against a background of Venetian grandeur.

The pursuit of pure color

Veronese’s ornamentations soon led to dramatic experiments with new colors. In his quest for beauty, he freed himself from the dull browns and grays of his predecessors by modeling in full light, making his already graceful figures iridescent and nearly transparent.

He developed glistening pastel hues of azure, coral, pearl, lilac, and lemon yellow that startled and fascinated his patrons. He loved deep, bold contrasting colors and he combined shades never used before—ruby and rich velvety green, pink and emerald, aquamarine and violet.

As if to stress that true beauty endures forever, Veronese searched for and discovered a technique of pigment preparation that is unsurpassed for preserving paint. His magnificent colors still radiate brilliantly today—compared with the fading ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and even Tiepolo’s now-deteriorating frescoes painted two centuries later.

An adept of color, its creation and its preservation, Veronese earned from one biographer the title “The Magician of Light.”

Heaven on earth: man’s domain

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Marriage of St. Catherine

The striking use of color was not Veronese’s only gift to Renaissance art. Paul saw beauty as the most powerful catalyst for enlightenment, and he endowed the figures of Jesus, the apostles and saints with lifelike expressions. By associating them with easily identifiable places and things, he put them within the reach of the common people.

With fresh perspective, he approached serious and sacred subjects with a simple familiarity that shattered the idolatry inherent in previous medieval and Renaissance painting—an idolatry which had separated the common people from God and his saints and oppressed them with a sense of their own sin. Veronese opened the world of the holy to all, portraying it with a delight and a sense of mirth.

In his Annunciation, for example, the Virgin Mary is greeted by a beautiful, shimmering-robed Archangel Gabriel, while her dog trots out to investigate the heavenly being. His Marriage of St. Catherine shows two angels in the lower left corner apparently disputing a book of scripture—vying with Catherine’s mystical ceremony for the viewer’s attention.

This seeming frivolity in Veronese’s work does not indicate his mockery of religion. On the contrary, it brings religion from stiff pomposity and fearful worship back into man’s domain, imparting the experience of the sacred to all. The study of his paintings will reveal the love with which he painted the face and attitude of man in the garb of heaven. His conviction that heaven is man’s destiny shines from his faces and figures and speaks of his hope for man’s elevation. But the approachability of his saints, their faces and their gestures baffled and even infuriated some of his religious contemporaries who accused Veronese of a lack of sanctity, a disrespect for God and the saints.

Defiance of the Inquisition

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Feast in the House of Levi, Paolo Veronese

Inevitably, Veronese’s controversial views drew the attention of the Inquisition. At the very heights of the Renaissance, the inquisitors scanned the flourishing world of Italian art for heretical contents. They exacted conformity in religious scenes, banned nudity, and required ecclesiastical approval for the contents of major compositions.

Untempered zealots roamed Italy, destroying paintings, decapitating statues, and threatening artists. Pope Pius V and the Spanish painter El Greco even advocated the destruction of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel because of the nude figures upon its ceiling. Veronese was summoned before the tribunal of the Inquisition under suspicion of heresy for the “irreverences” and “fantasy” in his painting of the Last Supper, which included in it a dwarf, a parrot, guards in German armour, dogs and a jester.

Veronese staunchly defended the artist’s right to freedom of imagination. He was wholly innocent that there was any disrespect for the Deity expressed in his externalization of beauty. “Others,” he pleaded, “expressed what to them seemed beautiful without sanction of the orthodox.” The tribunal acquiesced and elegantly resolved the question by suggesting that the theme be changed to a Feast in the House of Levi.

Veronese inscribed on the painting the new title and a fitting Bible quote directed to his persecutors: “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”

By disregarding the Inquisition’s demands, Veronese embodied the spirit of the Renaissance in his determination to create without Church controls. In this, he effectively demonstrated the power of creative genius over the confines of blind dogma.

Art for enlightenment

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The Family of Darius before Alexander

Public attention on Veronese’s trial caused a great increase in his popularity, and his commissions rapidly multiplied. Yet fame and wealth did little to affect his simple and affectionate nature. He was once contracted by the Pisani family to paint Family of Darius. It is said that Paolo hid the painting from the Pisani family so that he might escape from the premises before his host discovered it, so that the latter would feel no obligations to thank the donor with either words or coin. (The painting now hangs in the National Gallery of London. The figures in the composition depict members of the Pisani family.)

In private life, Paolo was a man of economical and well-regulated habits. He rejected commissions from royalty, choosing rather to stay in Venice with his family and enthusiastic students. That Veronese was an excellent teacher known for his “indescribable care” establishes his concern for communication and education and the purity of his motive as an artist. He was also profoundly interested in his two sons, to whom he entrusted the brush as soon as they were old enough to hold one.

A legacy of beauty

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The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

Paul became one of the major artists of the sixteenth-century Venetian school. Today, his masterpieces grace the galleries of many of the nations of Europe, as well as the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

As an observer, we might look upon each magnificent canvas and say, “What a genius!” Yet, we may not realize how many times Paolo struggled and erased, struggled and erased, and experimented with various media to capture on canvas a particular angelic form that existed in the etheric realm of heaven. For eighteen years, he persisted with one painting, until, one day, he stood before the canvas and knew that, at last, to the best of his ability, he had executed below, that which was Above.

Yes, as onlooker we often do not take into account, that each one of us, is also an artist in some particular field of human endeavor. Every man has his own heritage—an equal potential of genius. If it has not been externalized, it is because we have not exercised the third-ray quality of application.

To Paolo, his work was his way of expressing gratitude to the Deity for his heritage of Sonship from the Father. Labor was an obligation, an opportunity to fulfill his contract with life. To him labor was worship.

Veronese, though little celebrated today, was a pivotal artistic genius in sixteenth-century Renaissance Italy. His creative talents yielded innovative and astonishing uses of light, color, form, and composition. He was the first to capture on canvas the graceful movement of an angel in flight, the purity of pastel coloring, and the joy and delight of the divine kingdom which had formerly been cloaked in somber awe.

Veronese’s transcendent sense of beauty distinguishes him from other Renaissance artists. Rome produced Michelangelo, whose studies of human anatomy led to outstanding sculptural masterpieces but whose brooding frescoes were filled with a weighty sense of sin. Florence’s da Vinci with his scientific and philosophical genius launched a new era for man, yet his painting retains a pensive and enigmatic tone. Venice produced Titian, whose attempt to make the divine world human steered his art into the sensual, away from the exceptional and the saintly.

But Veronese—in his expression of refined innocence, of joy and the sweeping grandeur of the celestial—reached an apex of artistic and spiritual insight that helped catapult Western art beyond the heights of the Renaissance.

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Bust of Paolo Veronese above his tomb

The ascension of Paul the Venetian

Near the close of his earthly life as the Venetian artist, he was advised by his guru, that he, Paolo, had earned his release from the schoolroom of earth and was ready to enter the realms of immortality. In 1588, Paolo contracted a fever and, after a few days of illness, died on April 9. His brother and sons buried him in San Sebastiano, where a bust was placed above his grave.

Paul’s embodiment as Paolo Veronese, culminated in his reunion with God in the ritual known as the ascension. From the ascended state, he has described the process of the ascension:

If you are victorious on this path, the day and the hour of your ascension will come, when the sacred fire shall rise on your spinal altar with an intensity so great as to almost overwhelm you. Your I AM Presence and Holy Christ Self shall then draw you up into the arms of everlasting Love, and you shall make the transition from mortality to immortality.
And you shall hear the words of the Father: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.[1] Rise to the levels of the kingdom of God and let others follow in your wake!”[2]

This is precisely what Paul did at the conclusion of his embodiment as Paolo Veronese. He accelerated consciousness and reunited with his God source, ascending from the Retreat of the Liberty Flame in the heaven world over southern France on April 19, 1588.

The consensus of human appraisal in the mid-sixteenth century considered that Veronese’s Triumph of Venice was the acme of his expression in painting. But this was not to be. Within the majesty of his being, greater majesty was pulsating for expression.

Here, at the Château de Liberté, after his passing and yet prior to his ascension, Paul began the most important of his works, The Holy Trinity. The canvas has the unprecedented distinction of conveying the vibrations of both dimensions of activity—the earthly and the heavenly—for the canvas was completed after his ascension.

The Triumph of Venice
The Triumph of Venice. In an unsurpassed demonstration of contrasting color, Veronese draws the viewer’s eye from the glowing ambers below to the translucent blues and mother-of-pearl skies which frame the Lady Venice. Plush clouds and marble pillars unite heaven and earth. The perspective of the ceiling painting is tilted from bottom to top so that the foreground quarrel of armored knights, horses, and trumpets is downplayed and the viewer’s eye is irresistibly drawn along the swirling columns upwards to the coronation of Venus. Veronese’s use of pastel shades here, as in the coral-robed angel bearing the crown, also accentuates the heavenly event more than the dimmer browns and grays of the harsh scene below.

A reflection on his life by the ascended master

The master Paul has spoken of his own artwork as Paolo Veronese:

Now I speak to you because of some of the canvases that I created. There were times when I felt pressed, through the need for my livelihood, to create on canvas some wondrous object in order that mankind might be able to glory in it. And yet I was driven, in a sense, to a pensive mood whereby I could create at will a masterpiece only to find that when I came to create it, the inspirational spark was not present. And I found it could not be invoked. I found that the harder I tried, the more difficult became the decision as to just what I could paint, for I could not paint a commonplace item. It must be stirring and magnificent. This, then, is why I so well understand how the human hearts of men, at various times when the crossroads of life seem particularly difficult, stand in wonder and amazement as to just which way they shall turn.
Beloved ones, at times such as those, I myself, finding that I was indeed stymied, ceased to resist the condition, and not with a sense of indifference or aloofness or despair but with a sense of realization that God works in strange ways, mysterious and wondrous to perform his will. I determined to cease and desist in the struggle and to rest in his compassionate consciousness, knowing that, with the tides of time, I would find an answer to the searching and probing question of the hour.
And then, my peace would come in great flowing waves. And with the coming of my peace and my quietude, there was reestablished a contact between myself and those masterful divine beings who ensouled in my pictures the very essence of their own life. My angelic friends of light—those messengers of hope who guided my hand in its craftsmanship and artistry—were able to express, then, in the stilled muscular control that which they could never do when the tensions of the hour took their toll over my mortal frame.
I therefore urge all the students to recognize that there is a time to tense and a time to relax; there is a time to pray and a time to wait; there is a time to be devotional and a time to repose in God’s devotion.
I would like to remind all who are here that, after you have poured out all of your love to God—according to the capacity of your own soul—then is the hour when you should await, expectantly, to receive the love of God in return. It is as though an emptiness comes to you, for you have given your all; and then that all comes back to you charged with his love. The love of God flows in mighty waves, sweeping o’er you as the beating sea against the cliffs of being. And the foam intrigues your consciousness as its breakers of many patterns unfold multitudinous and wondrous spraylets of beauty.[3]

See also

Paul the Venetian

Sources

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, October 2, 1987.

Paul the Venetian (The Summit Lighthouse, 1965).

“Paolo Veronese: Magician of Light,” The Coming Revolution, Spring 1981.

  1. Matt. 25:21.
  2. Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 38, no. 34, August 6, 1995.
  3. Paul the Venetian, July 6, 1963.