It’s a shame Veronese is not better known. He was surely one of the greatest artists of all times.
And he didn’t have any of his friend Tintoretto’s defects.
Look at this portion of his great The Family of King Darius Before Alexander the Great, now in the Paris Louvre.
This is the right side of the picture. Alexander and his soldiers are seeing the most beautiful woman in the world—King Darius’ wife—and they look in awe, they stare, they covet. She belongs to Alexander now: his army has just defeated the Persians in a decisive battle and won their vast Empire. The queen is war booty.
Nowadays artists say they haven’t time to invent so much for a single painting, nor does their public have the time or patience to search out all the inventions. So Ruskin’s definition of great art—“the greatest number of the greatest ideas”—is no longer useful. But if you do have a moment, start to count how many there are here.
Veronese can just not stop inventing. True, the painting is the illustration of a story (from Plutarch) and Veronese borrowed the basic idea. But it is the enlargement of a single moment from the story, just as Shakepeare did in his historical plays, with as much truth as the painter knew how to put into it.
Psychological truth is what Veronese offers and other painters don’t. Titian, for instance, never did much in that way. Painters are usually interested first in the general design—the shapes, the colors. The attitudes and facial expressions of their painted people are conventional. Those people often look hypocritical or just silly. But with Veronese it’s hard to say what his priority was: an original design, brilliant colors, or people. He does them all, and with great authority and ease. You never see signs of hesitation or re-working. He just seems to cast his figures on the canvas like a wizard with a wand.
Read about his greatest painting–the Wedding Banquet of Cana.