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    Sale 1986

    Important Old Master Paintings Part I And Part II

    15 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 28

    Paolo Caliari, il Veronese Verona 1528-1588 Venice

    Allegory of the City of Venice adoring the Madonna and Child

    Price Realised  


    Paolo Caliari, il Veronese Verona 1528-1588 Venice
    Allegory of the City of Venice adoring the Madonna and Child
    oil on canvas, a lunette, with corners made up
    40½ x 50¾ in. 103 x 139 cm.

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    This superb canvas by Paolo Caliari, il Veronese, has an unusually distinguished provenance. It was painted as part of a decorative cycle for the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, the seat of the Exchequer in Venice, which was constructed near the Rialto bridge on the site of an earlier edifice and completed between 1525 and 1528 under the civic expansion program of Doge Andrea Gritti (1455-1538; fig. 1). Gritti's reign was characterized by a strong promotion of the arts, and he was himself painted several times by Titian. The sixteenth-century expansion of the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi was likely designed by Antonio Scarpagnino and is unusual for its wraparound façade, which is not joined to any other building. It was also unique in its purpose as one of the first buildings in Europe originally constructed as administrative space, with its series of small, ordered offices serving as a model of early municipal architecture. Upon its completion, nearly 200 pictures were commissioned for the interior, a comprehensive survey of masterpieces from the leading artists of the era - typically civic-minded in theme. When Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797, the collection was dispersed, and many of the works were lost. About half of the original 200 are known to scholars today, and many of them have found their way into the holdings of the Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice. Among these celebrated canvases are a set of three by Bonifacio de' Pitati (The Angel of the Annunciation, Our Lady of the Annunciation, and The Eternal Father and Saint Mark's Square), which hung in the Magistracy of the Camera degli Imprestidi (loans); and a spectacular Madonna and Child with Saints Sebastian, Mark and Theodore, venerated by three Camerlenghi by Jacopo Robusti, il Tintoretto, a votive picture in which we can identify the three donors, Michele Pisani, Lorenzo Dolfin and Marino Malipiero.

    The present work was designed as an overdoor for the chambers of the Officio dei Sopradazi, as a lunette within an architectural frame (the spandrels were made up subsequently to suit a rectangular frame). Its subject is an Allegory of the City of Venice, a popular theme for Venetian artists and those residing in the city. Veronese's contemporary Tintoretto executed four personifications of Venice, accompanied by various virtues, as part of the decorative scheme for the Doge's palace. Andrea Celesti, also Venetian-born, painted a version for the Castle of San Giusto in Trieste. And of course, Veronese himself painted the subject on a number of occasions, with consistent identifying attributes (compare, for instance, the present work to Veronese's Juno showering wealth on Venice in the Palazzo Ducale; fig. 2). The figure of Venezia is dressed in the sumptuous garb of a sixteenth-century noblewoman, with a luxurious gold brocade mantle covering an embroidered silk gown, both emblematic of Venice's profitable position on the trade route between Europe and the Orient. On her head she wears a pointed ducal corno, a small, bejeweled version of the Doge's cap, and by her side stands the lion of Saint Mark, the patron saint of the city. In contrast, the Madonna is humbly dressed in an unembellished red gown and blue mantle; thus 'the costuming of characters reinforces the dramatic structure of the composition, which sets off the purity and heavenly glory against the material opulence of earthly wealth and, at the same time, brings into the present the past moment when Christ was with man on earth' (D. Rosand, Painting in Cinquecento Venice, p. 167).

    The personification of Venice, Venetia figurata, historically carries both religious and secular associations. La Serenissima formally dedicated itself to Mary on a number of occasions, particularly following critical military engagements, as well as at the end of the Great Plague in 1630 when the city's grateful residents of the city honored her with the construction of Santa Maria della Salute. This close relationship stemmed in part from a shared history, with the 25th of March marking both the founding of Venice and the Annunciation, a date commemorated with elaborate annual ceremonies. In other representations of Venetia figurata, such as Veronese's Pax Veneta (Palazzo Ducale, Venice), the Queen of the Adriatic, enthroned in the clouds, is visually equated with the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven. Yet at the same time, Venice is frequently depicted in the company of pagan gods, as in Veronese's Venice receiving tribute from Hercules and Neptune (Szépmüvészeti Museum, Budapest) - a salute to naval supremacy and military might. Venetia figurate, therefore, can lay claim to both pagan and Christian iconographic roots.

    As is typical of Veronese, this painting is most splendid for its chromatic and brilliant coloring, for which the artist was celebrated. He enhances the primary palette of cerulean, gold and deep crimson with lively touches of pink, white and green, richly overlapping and applied with generous impasto. The entire scene is suffused with bright light, the sheen on the fabric defined by strokes of pure white and pale gold. It is a painting about surfaces: Veronese consistently confines his figures to a shallow ground, with a low horizon minimizing any extension into a deeper space. In 1527, Sebastiano Serlio, the mannerist architect, brought to Venice a series of designs for Vitruvian tragic and comic theater scenes, which subsequently served as useful references for artists looking to situate their figures in convincing architectural spaces. The association between painting and theater is consistently clear in Veronese's work, with the drama acted out as though on a grand and slightly elevated stage.

    A closer examination of the present work yields unexpected and fascinating insight into Veronese's creative process. It seems the artist originally painted a number of portrait figures, probably Venetian senators and magistrates, which are still faintly discernable at left. Veronese then replaced these portraits with a personification of Venice, presumably in response to a change in the terms of the commission. The figure of Venice, who has occasionally been mistaken for Saint Catherine, contains some exceptional pentimenti from Veronese's brush, among them a major change in the position of her left hand.

    Professor Teresio Pignatti dates the present work to the mid-1570s based on its stylistic resemblance to Veronese's canvases for the ceiling of the Sala del Collegio in the Palazzo Ducale of Venice (1575-77).


    Officio dei Sopradazi, Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, Venice.
    Signor Gaspare Graglietto, Venice.
    Sir David Wilkie, R.A.; sale, London, June 1848, lot 183.
    William Forward, Count of Wicklow, Ireland.
    Lady Milford; Christie's, London, 28 July 1909, lot 152.
    Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 25 November 1911, lot 112 (110 gns. to Sabin).
    Merczell de Nemes Collection, Budapest; sale, Paris, 1913.
    with Charles Sedelmeyer, Paris, 1913 (cat. no. 135).
    Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1920-57.
    with Julius Weitzner, New York, 1958.
    Bob Jones University Collection, Greenville, S.C.
    with Knoedler & Co., New York, 1976.
    Important Old Master Paintings sold on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines; Christie's, New York, 11 January 1991, lot 92 ($1,045,000 to the present owner).

    Pre-Lot Text



    C. Ridolfi, Le Maraviglie dell'arte..., 1648 (ed. Von Hadeln, 1914-24), p. 316.
    M. Boschini, Le Minere della pittura..., 1664, p. 283.
    M. Boschini, Le ricche minere della Pittura..., 1674, p. 30, S. Polo.
    B. dal Pozzo, Le Vite de' pittori, degli scultori et architetti veronesi, 1718 (ed. L. Magagnato, 1967), p. 90.
    A.M. Zanetti, Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della citta di Venezia, 1733, p. 187.
    A.M. Zanetti, Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della citta di Venezia..., 1771, p. 183.
    P. Caliari, Paolo Veronese, 1888, p. 115.
    G. Mourey, 'La Collection M. Merczell de Nemes de Budapest', Les Arts, no. 138, June 1913, p. 4, illustrated p. 9.
    J.P. van Derlip, 'Purchase of a Painting by Paolo Veronese. The City of Venice Adoring the Virgin and Child', Bulletin of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, vol. IX, no. 3, March 1920, p. 17.
    Handbook of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1926, p. 22.
    P. Osmond, Paolo Veronese, 1927, pp. 85 and 110.
    B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School, 1957, p. 134.
    B. Berenson, Pitture italiane dei Rinascimento: La scuola veneta, 1958, p. 136.
    R. Pallucchini, 'Tiziano, Tintoretto e Veronese a Toronto', Arte Veneta, 1959-1960, p. 300, fig. 376.
    A. Sharf, ed., Catalogue of the Art Collection, Bob Jones University, vol. I, 1962, p. 101, cat. no. 52.
    R. Marini, L'opera completa del Paolo Veronese, 1968, no. 184.
    B. Fredericksen and F. Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Collections, 1972, p. 139.
    D. Rosand, catalogue of the exhibition Veronese & his Studio in North American Collections, Birmingham Museum of Art, 1972, illustrated on the cover.
    P. Ticozzi, 'Le incisioni da Paolo Veronese nel Museo Correr', Bolletino dei musei civici veneziani, nos. 3-4, 1975, no. 155.
    T. Pignatti, Veronese: l'opera completa, Venice, 1976, I, p. 142; II, fig. 520.


    London, Burlington House, 1885.
    Leeds, Municipal Art Gallery, Loan Collection, 1889.
    London, The New Gallery, Winter Exhibition of Pictures Ancient and Modern by Artists of the British and Continental Schools, 1897-98, p. 38, no. 142, lent by Lady Milford.
    Düsseldorf, Städt. Kunsthalle, Sammlung Marczell von Nemes, 1912, no. 9, illustrated.
    Columbus, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, The Age of Titian, 1938, no. 27, illustrated.
    Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, 1960, no. 16, illustrated.