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Wedding Feast at Cana

by Paolo Caliari 'The Veronese'.

This painting measures almost 70 square meters and is the largest painting preserved in a French museum. 132 figures are represented in this scene showing the first miracle of Christ, turning water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana. The painting was commissioned for the refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. It is a spectacular painting not only in terms of its scale but also by the artist's treatment of space and color. It is a theatrical scene that portrays each figure in the Italian fashion of the 16th century and not in clothes that go back to antiquity. Veronese specialized in decorative painting and he represents the religious scene in all the decadence of a Venetian banquet.

The painting was hung in the dining room of the building you are currently visiting. The artist has included interesting symbols in his painting. Above the head of Christ, a group of men can be seen cutting flesh. However, at the banquet table, guests are eating dessert. They are eating fruits, like quinces that are symbols of marriage. The slaughter of the flesh is a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ for humanity.

Interestingly, the only two figures that look directly at the viewer, are Christ and the bride. Jesus is located in the center of the composition and the bride is sitting on the bottom left of the banquet table. Can you found her? Her husband is sitting next to her and is being served a glass of wine. Directly in front of Christ, there is a group of musicians. Veronese paints himself as a musician wearing beautiful white silk clothes. It is more visible than Christ himself! Other contemporaries of the artist who exchange their brushes for instruments in this scene are Tintoretto, Bassano and Titian.

This is one of the Italian artworks plundered by Napoleon Bonaparte. The painting was not returned after the Restoration of the French monarchy on the grounds that it was too big! It has been exhibited in the Louvre since 1798.