Saturday, March 15, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - The Marriage at Cana (Veronese)

Paolo Veronese's painting "The Marriage at Cana" may very well win the prize for the largest canvas.. ever.  Actually, that would be an interesting thing to look up... What is the largest painting on canvas that exists today?  I'll have to Google that later.  Anyway, this painting is massive.  It certainly qualifies as one of the largest paintings on canvas in the world, and it currently hangs at the Louvre in Paris along with a few other enormous canvases.  This painting measures at 666 x 990 cm, or around 262 x 390 inches.  It is a vast multi-figure picture that depicts, of course, the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus converted water into wine. 
I read that Veronese was paid 324 ducats for this painting, and was ordered to use the finest raw pigments available, including lapis lazuli for ultramarine.  And on top of that, he received free board and was promised a full barrel of wine on completion.  Not a bad commission at all, I suppose.  I was curious about how much exactly 324 ducats would be worth by today's American dollar standards.  It's hard to say, because I don't know if they were gold or silver ducats.  But if they were gold, and if my math and conversion skills are accurate, then if I had 324 ducats in my possession right now today, it would be roughly worth $55,341.75.  That's not including their value as historical pieces of currency, of which I have no idea how to determine.  Not that that's how much it was worth in 1563 when the piece was completed, but I sure would LOVE to be commissioned to paint something for 324 ducats right now.  Oh well.
The wedding feast at Cana is a very interesting story for me.  I think it has a much deeper meaning that what many see on the surface.  So many people read into this story the idea of Jesus' humanity, and that he enjoyed a party and a drink every once in a while.  I don't think this story illustrates that at all.  This story has deep parallels to the Last Supper, and Veronese gets to that with the very similar Last Supper-esque composition with Christ in the very center.  This is the beginning of a cycle from water to blood, where Christ converts water into wine, and eventually later on, the wine into his blood.  And it's those that are willing to take that step beyond the wine, and take the cup of his blood... They will be the ones to spend eternity with Christ.  And I imagine that a certain part of heaven will surely look something like the scene in this painting.

The Marriage at Cana
oil on canvas

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