PRINT January 2014


Paolo Veronese

Paolo Veronese, The Family of Darius before Alexander, 1565–67, oil on canvas, 7' 7 3/4“ x 15' 7”.

IN 1855, the Swiss cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt published one of art history’s foundational texts, Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens (Cicerone: Introduction to the Enjoyment of the Art Works of Italy). The book turned the emerging field away from an understanding of art as a passive reflection of religious and political conditions, toward a view of a liberated pursuit of aesthetic goals. Burckhardt, focusing on the Italian Renaissance, chose as one of his exemplars an artist largely overlooked today: the Venetian painter Paolo Veronese. Burckhardt hailed Veronese’s paintings as the highest expression of what he called Existenzmalerei—representations of pure existence, free from abstract theological concerns. Indeed, even Veronese’s religious scenes were only a pretext to “celebrate a beautiful and free human race in full enjoyment of its

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