(b. 1528, Verona, d. 1588, Venezia)
Mystical Marriage of St Catherinec. 1575
Oil on canvas, 337 x 241 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
In this work, originally the altar-screen of the church of St Catherine, Veronesian colour reaches a peak of richness and splendour. Along the diagonal of the composition which terminates in the drapes billowing around the columns, new chromatic notes are struck; the 'fortissimo' of the steps and figures in the foreground harmonizes with the 'pianissimo' of angels and cherubs which emerge from the grey-gold clouds of the celestial kingdom in the background. Linking the two planes of colour are two cherubs holding the martyr's palm and the heavenly crown above the Virgin and St Catherine while the angel below lifts her head and holds out her arms to receive the sign and the reward of martyrdom. All three are portrayed with Apollonian purity against the intense blue of the sky, an unforgettable example of Veronese's exquisite use of colour. Even more appropriate is the 17th century comment by Marco Boschini: 'It is almost as if the painter to create his effects used gold, pearls and rubies, emeralds sapphires and purest, most perfect diamonds'.
Here too, as in his pictures of religious feasts, Veronese successfully combines the religious subject with social pomp and ceremony, transforming the sacred event into a luxurious sixteenth-century festival. He achieves this in part by changing the setting of the episode, which no longer takes place in Alexandria but in a typically Venetian location.