ACCADEMIA GALLERY, The Feast In The House Of Levi

Audio File length: 2.41
English / USA Language: English / USA

You are now in the Gallery's largest hall, which was built at the beginning of the 1800s and is home to paintings of massive proportions: authentic glories of Venetian Renaissance painting. Make yourself comfortable, because you'll pass some unforgettable moments here, immersed in the ocean of color of the greatest Venetian masters.

The most magnificent composition is in the center, and is a sumptuous banquet that is personally brought to you by the great Paolo Veronese. The immense canvas was originally destined for the refectory of the Dominican convent of San Zanipolo, and the subject, not unusual for a place where friars consumed meals, is the Last Supper.

The picture was painted to replace an earlier work by Titian that had burned in a fire when the convent was used as a gunpowder and military equipment storage site during the Battle of Lepanto.

Veronese frames the scene in an architectural context: the three large arches inspired by the Classic style of Palladio's architecture makes you feel like a spectator watching the stage of a theater play. Apart from Christ and the Apostles, the vast painting has an authentic crowd of figures in contemporary dress and with casual attitudes. Many of these "extras" seem totally indifferent to the sacred episode before them.

We see it as a masterpiece, but it caused major problems for its creator. The Inquisition, which had its headquarters in the Dominican convent for which it was painted, was outraged by this setting. The painter was accused of having insulted the religious sense of the scene, and was indicted.

The acts of the trial are well-known. Faced with the judges' endless questions about the subject's sobriety and recognizability, the painter candidly but also decisively defended his own freedom as an artist, expressing himself partly in dialect and partly in an awkward bureaucratic Italian. When accused of having added too many figures, Veronese replied that the picture was big and there was room for everyone, and then added: "We painters take the same license as poets and madmen".


FUN FACT: want to know how the trial ended? Veronese essentially won, and had to make only minor changes. The work, however, had to change its name, as you can see in the foreground: it is no longer The Last Supper, but The feast in the House of Levi, which is the story of St. Matthew's conversion in the Gospel.


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