The Wedding at Cana

Jesus turned water into wine. The monks of the San Giorgio Monastery commissioned a painting of the event, eleven yards wide, to hang in their refectory. Napoleon stole it, and it hangs in the Louvre.

Here the miracle is demonstrated. The gentleman is painted lifesize.

They are a lively lot, but I am not at all clear what they are doing.

I doubt such Corinthian columns were in style in Galilee.

I think this is the happy couple. As Jesus is at the centre, they are shunted to the side.

People ignore or distract the musicians. They are not valued as they should be, and not by Veronese, either: a bow could not play that lute.

It hangs opposite the Mona Lisa, so most people pay it no attention.

7 thoughts on “The Wedding at Cana

  1. I’ve played many wedding gigs, and I can tell you that the musicians are still being distracted or ignored by the guests. The guy trying to play the lute with a bow was probably fooling around out of boredom. 🙂

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  2. Well, this is all typical Veronese, an excuse for lively colour, movement and exoticism. Some of these figures are undoubtedly portraits. The instrument is not a lute but some form of viol, which is bowed. I’m not sure I find the composition very satisfactory but in its original setting in a refectory this painting would have seemed a refreshingly open vista opposing the claustrophobic closed space a refectory usually is, with suitably pious goings-on and, no doubt, a tribute to the patrons. Thanks for sharing, it’s nice to see a bit of quality colour online. Sue x

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    • Look at the instrument. Its bridge is flat, its neck is flat, the six strings are in a plane, rather than a curve which is necessary for bowing. Viols, like modern orchestral strings, have the body narrowed to enable the bow to address the lowest and highest strings, and this instrument does not.

      I have eaten in two monastic refectories, and they were indeed enclosed spaces, windows for light rather than for views, and in one eating without talking, listening to a reader.

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      • I consulted my brother-in-law who is a classical music journalist and the instruments here do seem to be viols, in early forms, a bass viol on the right and two precursors of tenor viols. The bass, side on to us, shows the characteristic flat back and the bridge that is flatter than found in the violin family. This relative flatness enables chords to be played more easily than in the violin family, a characteristic of viol music, but it also means that the bow is best held palm up, as here, to pass over the strings more than press on them.
        I looked more specifically into this painting and it was painted for Palladio’s famous architectural complex of San Giorgio Maggiore opposite St Mark’s Square in Venice, hence the classical architecture in the painting that matches that of the surrounding buildings. It was pinched by Napoleon after the defeat of Venice and was never returned. As it happens, Napoleon died 200 years ago yesterday and this is one of the hundreds of reasons why I have refused to commemorate that event.
        The foremost viol player in white may be a self-portrait. Being a Renaissance man, I dare say Veronese could play and sing as well as paint.
        Sue x

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