The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Renaissance Venice

Why did Veronese get into so much trouble?

Veronese (1528–1588) was the nickname of Paolo Caliari, a painter from Verona who made his career in Venice during the second half of the sixteenth century. Many of his paintings celebrate the ornate architecture of the city and the well-heeled lives of its nobility. His seemingly harmless painting, Feast in the House of Levi, however, got him into trouble with the Catholic Inquisition. The painting was originally called The Last Supper, with Christ depicted in the center of a large, ornate hall, dining with a rather rambunctious crowd. The enormous painting, which is eighteen feet tall and forty-two feet long, included images of drunkards, a man with a bloody nose, cats, dogs, parrots, dwarves, and Germans—all of which the Inquisition found unacceptable in a painting of such a holy scene. In 1573, Veronese was called before the Inquisition and was asked, “Does it seem fitting at the Last Supper of the Lord to paint buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and similar vulgarities?” (as quoted in Stokstad 700). Veronese, who had made a few snarky responses to previous questions, merely replied, “no, milords.” The Inquisition demanded that he “fix” the painting in three months or face further consequences. Instead, Veronese changed nothing about the painting except its name. No longer titled The Last Supper, the Inquisitors appeared to drop the matter.


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