Sixteenth century Italian artist, Paolo Veronese, was born during the Renaissance period. He was famous for his ability to make and use colors in such a way as to enhance and magnify the illusion effects of his scenes. He was one of the three most important painters in Venice during that period, the other two master artists being Titian and Jacob Tintoretto.
He was born in 1528, in Verona, according to a Veronese census document that also records his parents as being Gabriele (a stone cutter) and Catherina. Although his true last name is not certain, he had used the names Paolo Cagliari (and/or Paolo Caliari) before adopting the last name Veronese, in regards to his birthplace. As was custom, he was apprenticed to a tradesman to learn a craft, and at fourteen years old he went to work in the studio of local artist Antonio Badile. It’s also possible that he studied under Giovanni Francesco Caroto. In 1543 Badile had completed a large altarpiece, and it included impressive artwork by Veronese, who was only fifteen at the time. By the next year Veronese had developed his own style, using the rules of Mannerism, but with an individual approach to a brighter color palette, and it's believed that he had left Badile’s workshop by that time to practice independently.
In 1548 Veronese moved to the city of Mantua where he made religious frescoes in the city’s cathedral. From Mantua he traveled to Venice, in 1553, where he was hired by the city government to decorate the Hall used by the Council of Ten, and another council room that was adjoining it, made for the Three Heads of Council. That was followed by a commission to paint in the Doge’s Palace, and to decorate the ceiling in San Sebastiano church. Later on he was awarded a prize for his ceiling paintings in the Marciana Library by Titian, and his cumulative works by that time had already earned him the status of a Venetian master artist.
Veronese made narrative cycles, which were what he was most famous for. His masterful style became mature when he began using Michelangelo’s way of representing figures as heroes and Correggio’s foreshortening perspective. The works that he was hired to do were sometimes monumental, for churches and private villas alike.
His The Feast in the House of Simon, a series of banquet scenes, was begun in the San Sebastiano church refectory in 1556, but he didn’t finish it until 1570. Veronese did take breaks from the San Sebastiano murals to work elsewhere, such as in the newly built Barbaro family villa in Maser, and the San Giorgio Maggiore monastery, which was located on a small island in Venice. Veronese had created portrait paintings of the Barbaro family, alongside a number of mythological beings, and he'd painted brilliant "blue skies” ceilings; all in all, it was a triumphant achievement using intricate perspectives and luminescent colors. The Benedictine monks at the San Giorgio Maggiore monastery hired him to paint their 66 square meter area, and requested that the blue paint used should have the expensive lapis lazuli mineral in it, and the other paints and pigments to be of exceptional quality. Veronese worked on that project from 1662 to 1663, painting a narrative that told the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine, which was titled The Wedding at Cana.
One other famous work, over 5 meters by 12 meters, that Veronese is known for is The Feast in the House of Levi (1573), which is painted in the refectory at the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo. During the reign of the Counter-Reformation the Inquisition harshly questioned Veronese as to why his version of The Last Supper was disrespectfully filled with comical dwarves, numerous species of animals and even German soldiers. His answer to the Inquisition was along the lines that "painters, madmen and poets were allowed the same freedom of expression". In the end the issue was resolved with the change of the name of the painting from The Last Supper to The Feast in the House of Levi.
Paolo Veronese was the head of a large workshop in Venice when he passed away on April 19, 1588. As a young man, in 1565, he had married Elena Badile (Antonio Badile’s daughter) and their family included four boys and a girl. His two sons, Gabriele and Carlo, and Veronese’s own brother, Benedetto, were artists by trade and had been working with him; they continued to run the shop as a family business after Veronese’s death. His pupils had included Giovanni Antonio Fasolo and Luigi Benfatto, who was a nephew of Veronese; his collaborators had included Giovanni Battista Zelotti and Anselmo Canneri. His name remains as famous today as it was over four hundred years ago, and his surviving artwork, including his numerous drawings, are all exceptionally significant works of art.