The Wedding at Cana

The_Marriage_at_Cana_Paolo_Veronese1571

Artist Paolo Veronese
Year 1563
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 666 cm × 990 cm (262 in × 390 in)
Location Louvre, Paris

Paolo Veronese was born in 1528 as Paolo Caliari in Verona, Italy. He became known as “Veronese” when he moved to Venice, after his hometown. His father was a stonecutter and Veronese was apprenticed to Antonio Badile at the age of fourteen. He went on to study Mannerism in Parma and then moved to Mantua where he painted frescoes for churches. Veronese married his master, Badile’s, daughter in 1566. He spent a great deal of his life in Venice. He received his first state commission in 1553 for the hall of the Council of Ten in the Doge’s Palace and is credited for many paintings in other rooms of the palace, such as the Hall of the College and the Hall of the Great Council.

One of Veronese’s most famous works is the Wedding at Cana, which is Jesus’ first miracle, as told in the gospel of John in Chapter 2: 1 – 11. In this story, the wedding party runs out of wine and Jesus converts jugs of water into wine. This painting was commissioned by the Benedictine Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy but it currently rests in the Louvre Museum because it was stolen by Napoleon and never returned.

In this painting, Veronese uses a mixture of Greco-Roman mannerist elements. If you look at the architecture included in the wedding scene, you can see that there is an array of Doric and Corinthian columns along the walls, plus a statue of a goddess on the balcony of a building in the upper left-hand side of the scene. He is combining classical, mythological, and Christian themes into his painting. Jesus and his mother are seen at the center of the painting, seated at the table with halos on their heads. Jesus appears to be the only character looking directly at the audience, while everyone else is fully involved in the wedding festivities. Veronese positions Jesus in such a way that he is at the very center, and although all of the characters are silent in the painting, as requested by the Benedictine Monastery (strict silence was enforced at the monastery), there is still a lot of movement and action at the wedding. The action of the painting takes place after Jesus has already converted the water to wine a can be seen by the man in the lower right hand corner pouring wine into a serving jar. Right above him is a man examining the wine in his glass as if he does not believe that it is actually wine.

It is rumored that Veronese painted public and political figures into the wedding party, such as, Vittoria Colonna, Queen Mary I, and King Charles V. Veronese painted over 130 people into his Wedding at Cana.

Upon taking a closer look, one can see that there are men on the second level of the painting chopping meat. According to the Uffizi Gallery website, the meat is intended to be lamb which is a symbol of Jesus’ coming death. He is placed directly under the knife.

This miracle was Jesus’ first miracle and is significant because this was the first time that Jesus showed his Godly power to the people. This was also significant because it is a precursor to communal Eucharist: the wedding party is taking part, together, in the wine created by Jesus that ultimately symbolized his blood and body.

Sources:

http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/wedding-feast-cana

http://arthistory.about.com/cs/arthistory10one/a/late_ren.htm

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/paolo-veronese

http://www.virtualuffizi.com/biography/Paolo-Veronese.htm

http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/Jesus_at_the_wedding.htm

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