Veronese, His Seventeenth-Century Legacy. Exhibition Review, with a Gallery of Images. Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice

By Mulvihill, Maureen E. | Seventeenth-Century News, Spring-Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Veronese, His Seventeenth-Century Legacy. Exhibition Review, with a Gallery of Images. Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice


Mulvihill, Maureen E., Seventeenth-Century News


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Veronese, His Seventeenth-Century Legacy. Exhibition Review, with a Gallery of Images. Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. December 6, 2012-April 14, 2013. Webpage. Curator: Virginia Brilliant, Ringling Museum, with Frederick Ilchman, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Guest Speaker: Peter Humfrey (St Andrews University, Edinburgh, Scotland), Asolo Theatre, Sarasota, December 8, 2012. Companion volume (in lieu of catalogue): Paolo Veronese, ed. Virginia Brilliant, with Frederick Ilchman (Scala, 2012; 17 essays). Installation: Matt Lynn, Donn Roll, Carl Lamparter (Signs Now, Bradenton, Florida), et al. Photographer: Giovanni Lunardi, Sarasota, FL. Scott Gardiner, Media Director, Ringling Museum.

POWER IN GREAT NATIONS is never hidden; power is meant to be seen. A first priority in nation-building and urban design is the public display of power. And this is managed visually, in glorious physical objects: dynastic family estates, public museums and libraries, iconic monuments, grand architecture, and so on. These are the symbols of power and cultural capital. When Charles I engaged Peter Paul Rubens in 1635 to design the ceiling paintings of the Banqueting House in Whitehall Palace, Charles was exploiting the medium of the visual arts to assert his own sovereignty and the rising prestige of his nation. Notably, the King did not commission a native English artist for this plum, but rather a distinguished Baroque master beyond his own shores. The King sought reputation and legacy on the world stage through a famous citizen of Flanders (Rubens, ceiling paintings; Rubens in London).

Across time and cultures, the visual arts have served the fame of great nations. In the seventeenth century, it was Italy, Holland, France, and England (rather in that order) which effectively flaunted their commercial and political power through a calculated program of cultural display. This began with commissioned works by the best available masters in architecture, painting, and sculpture, as well as book arts, fabric and tapestry, and (yes) high fashion with its stylish accoutrement.

In the annals of art history, the seventeenth century is remarkable for the rise of the professional art connoisseur and his agent (see Edward Chaney). There have always been art collectors, of course, but the informed and discriminating art connoisseur, such as Thomas (Howard), Earl of Arundel, and his buying agent (his "man"), were something of a race apart. Theirs was a serious buying agenda, with enviable resources and access, and (above all else) deep knowledge of the international art markets. One of the busiest art agents of the seventeenth century was Sir Balthazar Gerbier, successful buyer and art advisor to Charles I and principally to George (Villiers), first Duke of Buckingham, the century's most flamboyant collector. During his many art-buying sprees on the Continent, Buckingham was known to say to hosts and potential sellers, "Why, yes, all in this gallery is quite fine. We'll buy the whole room" (Humfrey, Veronese lecture, Asolo Theatre, Sarasota, FL., December 2013; Image 4, below). Gerbier and others of his talents assisted Stuart royals and nobles in defining the English nation; the art agent anchored and advanced the administrative program as much as any court politician. The agent was the critical pointperson in these transactions, serving as negotiator and commercial interface between buyer and seller. Like the deep-pocketed collector and connoisseur, the art agent was the builder of great collections: his taste and alertness to market changes contributed considerably to collection formation and value, and to the reputation of nations. And like the knowledgeable art connoisseur, the art agent was a relatively new and rising professional in seventeenth-century cultural history.

Art collectors and connoisseurs, especially in the first half of the seventeenth century, were mad for the Old Masters, especially the Baroque painters of Renaissance Venice: Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bassano, and their lesser contemporaries. …

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