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

Allegory of Love, I: Infidelity

c. 1575
Oil on canvas, 187 x 188 cm
National Gallery, London

This canvas is one of a series of four evidently representing various attributes of love, or perhaps different stages of love culminating in happy union. They were clearly designed as compartments of a decorated ceiling and might conceivably relate to a nuptial bedchamber. Veronese used this type of 'oblique perspective' for ceiling decorations in Venice: the angle of foreshortening corresponds to a viewpoint obliquely beneath the painting, avoiding the extreme distortion of figures imagined as directly above the viewer's head. By 1637 the four allegories, now all in the National Gallery, were recorded in the collection at Prague of the Emperor Rudolph II, the great art patron of his age, who probably commissioned them.

The appearance of all four paintings has been badly affected by the irreversible discoloration of the smalt - a comparatively cheap blue pigment made from pulverised glass coloured with cobalt oxide - used to paint the sky, which now gives it a pale grey tinge instead of its original warm blue. With age, some of the green copper resinates of the foliage have oxidised to brown. In most respects this is the best preserved of the four pictures, and the one where Veronese's own hand, as opposed to his workshop assistants', is most visible.