Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lose the dog for Mary Magdalen

Paolo Veronese is called upon to paint a masterpiece version of the Last Supper for the dining room of the Dominicans in Venice, at Santi Giovanni e Paolo. It's a giant painting, over thirty feet long. Veronese, who loves lively figures and especially animals, figures that he might as well fill in the huge expanse with things like a dwarf, a man with a nosebleed, some German mercenaries leaning on pikes, and a dog (center, foreground). The Prior, appalled, complains to the Inquisition. They tell him to instruct Veronese to replace the dog with Mary Magdalen. Veronese points out that he can't just drop Mary Magdalen in where a dog is sitting scratching for fleas. The Inquisition hauls Veronese in and questions him at length about the painting. Veronese pleads artistic license. He points out how big the painting is. He says all the funny details are "per ornamento, come si fa" (for ornament, everyone does it). The Inquisition tells him to change the picture.  Veronese returns to the now-finished painting, takes a brush, and writes on it "Feast in the house of Levi." Voil√†, no more scandalous Last Supper.  I like this guy.  Michele does not.

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