(b. 1528, Verona, d. 1588, Venezia)

Enthroned Madonna and Child, with the Infant St John the Baptist and Saints

Oil on canvas, 341 x 193 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Paolo Veronese left his native Verona in 1553 to settle in Venice where he came under the influence of the Venetian figurative tradition and then Mannerism, in particular of Parmigianino and Giulio Romano. The rich and complex arrangement of his compositions is matched by a brilliant use of colour, characterized by the juxtaposition of complementary colours and a vibrant solar light. One of Veronese's principal works of the 1560s, the 'Enthroned Madonna and Child, with the Infant St John the Baptist and Saints' was painted for the Sacristy of the Venetian Renaissance church of San Zaccaria (restored in 1562). It is a fine example of the early works of Veronese with its harmonious richness of colour.

The saints represented in this altarpiece (called Pala di San Zaccaria) are Joseph, Jerome, Justina of Padua and Francis. The young John the Baptist stands at the meeting point of the two compositional diagonals formed by the figures of St. Joseph, St Francis and St Jerome, who are invested with a look of detached spirituality. The colour is made vibrant by a continual juxtaposition of light and dark tones. Through an understanding of the interaction of colour every hue is intensified and enriched. The diapason of Veronesian colour is achieved in the portrayal of the Virgin and child set against the damask of the niche.

This altarpiece still shows the influence of Mannerist culture in the calculated asymmetry of the group of the Madonna and Child and the affected poses of some of the saints. Unfettered by convention, Veronese has placed the infant St John the Baptist half naked at the centre of the composition.