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

St Nicholas Named Bishop of Myra

Oil on canvas, diameter 198 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

In the last decade of his life Veronese painted a large decorative cycle of eleven canvases for the Venetian church of San Nicolò dei Frari, popularly known as San Nicolò della Lattuga, which was stripped of its ornaments in 1806. Three of the paintings (Saint Nicholas named Bishop of Myra, Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata and the Crucifixion) are now in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice. The Adoration of the Magi, surrounded by four figures of Evangelists, was adapted and mounted on the ceiling of the presbytery of the chapel of the Rosary in Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1929. The large canvas depicting the Baptism and Temptations of Christ, formerly in the chancel of San Nicolò, was transferred to Brera in 1809. Finally, the two Prophets in monochrome that were originally located at the sides of the high altar are now in the Fondazione Cini in Venice.

This work belongs to this series. Damaged at the sides, only the central part of the composition remains. Two groups of figures form the two parallel diagonals, one coming forward, the other with St Nicholas held back. The subtlety of the Veronesian palette is as ever remarkable for the variation of tone, here used to create a naturalistic effect.

In his narration of the episodes Veronese gave expression to a dramatic tension, an intensely emotional involvement that was certainly unprecedented in his earlier handling of similar subjects. To achieve this, he profoundly modified his normal modes of expression, creating new structures of composition that he would use frequently in his paintings from this moment on.