The Wedding At Cana

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Probably the most famous of all pictures ever painted in Venice, the Wedding At Cana is one of the greatest masterpieces painted by Veronese. It was painted using Oil on Wood technique so it would be preserved. This picture is based on the story from the New testament in which Jesus was invited to a wedding in Cana. The wine was running out, and Jesus miraculously transformed the water into wine. The wine is compared to Jesus blood and soul, in the sense that whoever drinks it can enjoy the sanctity of Christianity.

Paolo Veronese had quite a story before he became an artist. To gain his painting skills, he linked in a group of functionaries in the Venice ministry. Working in the “ministry of foreign affairs” (what would seem today more like a delegation), Veronese used his spare time in Rome to learn from pictures of Rafael.

Veronese set a new standard regarding size. If you thought Rafael and other artists former to Veronese were playing big, Veronese had reached 60 meters squared. The Pictures were huge in width and in numbers: hundreds of people in one picture, probably for the first time in the world of art. Veronese was co-painting his pictures with partners, mainly from his family, to allow each painter specialize in his own sphere. His brother specialized in painting of architecture, while his son was professional  in painting of naked humans.

The Inquisition did not like Veronese work as for their eminent anti theist agendas. He was even requested to change the name of the picture, as it was initially called “the Final Banquet” (now  called “Wedding at Cana”).

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The dog on the table is making the table unsuitable for a Jewish meal. The painter uses the dog to tell us to check with careful scrutiny not only the Kosherness of the meal: we are to question the miracle taking place in there. The supposedly representational painting does not really depicts the Bible story of a marriage banquet at which Jesus converts water to wine, but actually present a fraud by the host.

First of all, the Levi:

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In this part of the picture, you can see the Levi is checking the wine. I may add that if the miracle was in fact true, it seems the wine should have been forbidden for Kosherness issue. But here, the Levi is used just as a rubber stamp. The painter is ridiculing religious governing over food as for being corrupted and lacking rational basis. I may add that the butcher surely does not follow Kosherness rules, and it’s enough to check his knife to realize that:

veronese-wedding-kitchen

(This is the kind of knife used for slaughtering according to Judaism. It is forbidden for other uses, such as grinding the meat)

Veronese adds and implies that the Levi is bribed, using the feet contact between him and the guy pouring the wine:

The Levi.JPG

Fraud or not, clues over the Kosherness of the meal are shifted to a sophisticated criticism over the most famous Christian narratives. Let us go over the characters to clear the smoke over the hidden narrative:

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At first sight, this may look like the good old Christian painting. Jesus and Mary both own a halo, thus portrayed as saint and purify. Nonetheless, it turns out to be a camouflage to their true self.

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The bride (on the left) is dressed in the fashions of Venice at the time. The identity of the sitter is unknown. She may be the wife of Pietro Barbaro, whom was a friend of Veronese. Each of the people in this part of the table has some bad intentions. The man behind the bride is about to steal her neckless, while the guy on her left seems to point on the wine as if he suspects the fraud.

Despite the painting showing more than one hundred guests in the banquet, of all the people who crowd the scene with human gesture, colour of character, and social pose, no-one is speaking. Though the silent is mainly understood as having a religious purpose, I believe it also serves as a hint to the fraud. The people are afraid to talk and expose the fraud instead of hailing the “miracle”. Jesus is portrayed as a liar whom deceptively declared a ‘miracle’ and served people fake wine.

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servant pouring fake wine

I may sum up by saying thefts is a major motive in the picture. Veronese go on and uses this motive to question the main narrative of Christianity: Should Jesus have died for our sins?

hourglass

On the vertical axis, the picture portrays Jesus and his apostles as bandits getting away from their crimes. Above Jesus figure, a lamb is butchered, while beneath him there are musicians.  Beneath Jesus you can see the hourglass, a reference to Jesus’ statement to his mother in this Bibical scene that “his hour has not yet to come”. This hour is the hour of his death, and by putting it here the painters implies what he really thinks about Jesus’ death.

My favorite: The Watching Dog

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Above the whole scene, Veronese has made genius move placing the dog. The dog is wining over the deterioration of the people, as if he remembers better times.

Assisting Motive: Confusing the Viewer

To emphasize the fraud motive, Veronese induce an assisting motive of confusion. Parts of the pictures aren’t what they seem to be at first sight, as if to tell us to take a closer look.

Starting with the musicians: 

Musicians.JPG

The number of the musicians is greater than it seems at first sight. If you took a glance you would think there are four musicians, while there are actually between 6 to 8. The 2 whom I’m not sure about are number 2 (whom is holding a bow) and number 8 (the abandoned drum).

Animals’ role in Veronese Paintings

To better understand the rule of the dogs in the wedding, let us go over some more paintings. Starting with “Feast in the House of Simon”:

Feast in the houe of Simon.JPG

The most significant concept here is the distorted morals. The people are admiring Jesus’ legs, bragging out their dogs and parrots – while torturing the slave by beating him. The use of slavery is very ironic, as Christianity supposedly supports equality.

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