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

The Martyrdom and Last Communion of Saint Lucy

c. 1582
Oil on canvas, 140 x 173 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

In the last years of Veronese's career, the religious mood has become more serious and intense, and the colours duskier than those in his early paintings. These changes may certainly be attributed in large part to the dramatically changed religious climate of the period. In fact, the subject of the Martyrdom and Last Communion of St Lucy closely reflects two of the themes most earnestly propagated by Counter-Reformation religion: the glory of martyrdom for the true faith; and the salvation of the soul through the sacraments of the Catholic church.

The painting shows St Lucy who, refusing to give up her Christian faith, was condemned to death during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century. In this case the work was not painted for display or devotion in a private house, but for the public surroundings of a church, where its religious message would have served to stimulate the piety of the faithful.