(b. 1487, Verona, d. 1557, Venezia)

Dives and Lazarus

Oil on canvas, 204 x 436 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Like Paris Bordone, Bonifacio Veronese fails to convey the spiritual complexity of the world of the Mannerists, but used their formulae as a means of renewing and developing his innate gifts as a narrator. Thus he exploited the sensuous richness of the range of colours derived from Palma il Vecchio in his dynamic formal articulations and complex perspective-spacial proposals which were inspired in particular by prints of paintings by Raphael and the Roman artists. The most inspired poetic achievement of the fascinating decorative liberty attained by Bonifacio Veronese in the course of the fourth decade of the sixteenth century is without doubt this representation of 'Dives and Lazarus' which is mentioned in 1660 by Boschini as hanging in Palazzo Giustiniani at San Stae.

The Gospel parable is here not used as a prompt for dramatic effects but rather for the discursive presentation of a civilized meeting in the discreet half-light of the portico of a country house of the time. The languorous abandon to the music displayed by the group in the foreground is not in the least disturbed by the presence of the beggar, Lazarus, nor yet by the sudden bursting in of the armed men taking refuge from the fire blazing in the distance on the right, while the left and centre of the picture depict the serene passing of time in country house life: the servants intent on their bread-making, the lovers at the entrance to the tree garden, the hunters resting against the wall of the building. In the light, mellowed by the melancholy, yearning reflections of sunset, the colours acquire a refined neo-Byzantine richness and seem to be reminiscent of the 'courtly' fables of Vittore Carpaccio.