We went to the Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery just after it opened, and were quite bowled over. So we revisited it yesterday, and are more than glad we did so. It was a particular delight to see again the portraits of Iseppo da Porto and his wife Livia, he with a protective arm round their oldest son, she with one of their daughters who is still looking at us quizzically across four and a half centuries (click to enlarge). Now Livia lives on in Baltimore, and Iseppo is in the Contini Bonacossi Collection you can visit one day a week in Florence. But the works belong together — they are not just wonderfully executed but also make a quite extraordinarily humane and very touching pair.
By the datings in the catalogue, Veronese was just 24 when he painted the da Porto portraits in 1552. Which is surely remarkable. And below, painted near the end of his life some 30 years later, is another of our favourites, Venus, Mars and Cupid (from the Scottish National Gallery). Bolder, so richly coloured, but yet for gods at play still rather touchingly human.
Some huge altarpieces, teeming with life and movement, had been allowed to travel from Italy, and the National displayed them very dramatically. By using some of large galleries upstairs (rather than the smaller rooms in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing usually used for special exhibitions), we were allowed vistas through one room to another to see pictures framed by great doorways. The whole exhibition was a triumph (and so it was a surprise that we could just walk in without booking or even queuing, two days before it closed).
So yes, sorry, if you haven’t seen it, and can’t be in London tomorrow, you have missed your chance (the exhibition closes on June 15th). But I can warmly recommend the catalogue as a typically fine piece of book-production by the Gallery (the text is more historical than art-critical, but none the worse for that). The paperback seems to be sold-out at the moment, but the hardback is still something of a bargain. And is full of delights such as this …