Feast at the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese

Feast at the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese (1573)
Feast at the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese (1573)

The 16th century the art scene of Venice was dominated by three artists, Titian, Paolo Veronese, and Jacopo Tintoretto and it was these three painters who managed to tender for and win most of the public and religious commissions, which were on offer during that period.  My featured painting today was one of Veronese’s most controversial paintings.   It was intended to be a monumental work depicting the Last Supper but as you will now read that Veronese, three months after its completion, had to hastily change the title of the painting.  The work, which is now entitled Feast at the House of Levi, is a massive work of art measuring 555cms x 1280cms (18’6″ x 42’6″) and was far too big to be included in the recent Veronese Exhibition at the National Gallery, London but I have been fortunate enough to stand in front of this amazing work a few years ago when I visited the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.  It is a truly magnificent painting.

Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice
Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

In 1573, Paolo Veronese, who was at the time forty-five years old, was awarded the commission to paint a depiction of the Last Supper for the rear wall of the refectory of the fourteenth century Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, sometimes known as the pantheon of doges, as twenty-five of them have been buried there. It is one of the largest churches in the city of Venice. The building of this great church started around 1333 but was not completed until November 1430 as the construction was halted on many occasions due to the never-ending plagues that the city suffered during the 14th century.  This painting by Veronese would replace Titian’s painting, The Last Supper, which had been lost in a fire in 1571.  According to the writing on the base of the pillars, to the left and right in the foreground of the painting, the work was completed by Veronese on April 20th 1573.  When I looked at some of the Veronese paintings at the National Gallery exhibition in my previous two blogs, I talked about the artist’s penchant for combining secular depictions in some of his religious works, such as his painting, Supper at Emmaus, and in today’s painting we can see that this theme was once again adopted, much to the horror of the Catholic Church.  So let us look in more detail at this immensely impressive work.

Dog looking at cat which appears under Last Supper table
Dog looking at cat which appears under Last Supper table

In the painting we see a monumental triple-arch background through which one can see more magnificent buildings of Venice cityscape.  This was more than likely inspired by buildings designed by the great Italian architects of the time, Andrea Palladio and Jacopo Sansovino, who designed many of the Venetian buildings in the sixteenth century.   In the foreground of the painting and on either side of the depiction of Christ at the Last Supper, we witness a scene of great merriment, with jesters and blackamoors, along with the nobility of Venice enjoying their own sumptuous feast.  Veronese has simply combined the Last Supper with Christ and his Apostles with a typical Venetian dinner party.  The first thing that strikes you about this work is the large number of figures that have been included in the work, one could say, almost crammed into the work and because the work is somewhat cluttered by human beings, the depiction of Christ at the Last Supper seems almost lost in the melee and this is part of the reason why it did not find favour with the Church.  One realises that the artist must have derived great joy from including all these various figures, all doing different things and for him this maybe what the painting was about and that the Last Supper was just a bi-product of the work.  Maybe we can glean an understanding of Veronese’s modus operandi by his description of his work as an artist when he described what he did, saying:

“I paint and compose figures”

Jester with parrot
Jester with parrot

The Church’s displeasure of the completed work was not just that the depiction of the Last Supper, in the central background of the painting, seems almost to play a secondary and minor role in the work; it was that they were horrified by some of the numerous other characters who populated the work.  Veronese’s inclusion of this assortment of characters into such a famous religious scene was looked upon by the Church as being irreverent, bordering on blasphemous. One has to remember that this period marked the beginning of the Counter Reformation which was the Catholic Church’s attempt to strongly and vociferously oppose the Protestant Reformation and to move towards a re-definition of good Catholic values.  The Church was very wary about anything which could be perceived as mocking the Church and its values.  This counter-reformation movement attempted to elevate the moral and educational standards of the clergy and by so doing enable it to win back areas endangered by Protestantism.  So when Veronese added a plethora of people, some of whom seemed to be drunk, as well as dogs, a cat, midgets, and Huns to the depiction of Christ at the Last Supper at the house of Simon, the elders of the Church were horrified.  Veronese was summoned to appear before the Inquisition on July 18th 1573 which was sitting in the Chapel of S. Teodoro.

One of the first questions posed by his inquisitors was whether he knew why he had been summoned before them.  Veronese replied:

“…I fancy that it concerns what was said to me by the reverend fathers, or rather by the prior of the monastery of San Giovanni e Paolo, whose name I did not know, but who informed me that he had been here, and that your Most Illustrious Lordships had ordered him to cause to be placed in the picture a Magdalene instead of the dog; and I answered him that very readily I would do all that was needful for my reputation and for the honour of the picture; but that I did not understand what this figure of the Magdalene could be doing here…”

 The inquisitors were not pacified by his answer and began to question him in more detail.  They asked him why he had included two German soldiers seen on the stairway, standing guard bearing halberds, in the right foreground.  One has to remember it was the German Martin Luther, who initiated the Protestan Reformation fifty-five years earlier and it was he who had been a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church, constantly criticising the ways of the Catholic clergy and the Catholic doctrine.   The Inquisition wanted to know why such frivolous things as a dwarf with a parrot on his arm, a dog which sits before Christ’s table staring at the cat which has appeared under the tablecloth had been included in a deeply religious scene.  Veronese had all the answers ready.  As far as the German soldiers he answered:

German guards with halberds
German guards with halberds

“…We painters use the same license as poets and madmen, and I represented those halberdiers, the one drinking, the other eating at the foot of the stairs, but both ready to do their duty, because it seemed to me suitable and possible that the master of the house, who as I have been told was rich and magnificent, would have such servants…”

The inclusion of the two Germans in the painting was considered by the inquisitors an even greater sin than the other inclusions the inquisitors questioned Veronese again as to their inclusion.

“…Do you not know that in Germany and other countries infested by heresy, it is habitual, by means of pictures full of absurdities, to vilify and turn to ridicule the things of the Holy Catholic Church, in order to teach false doctrine to ignorant people who have no common sense?…”

Veronese realised he was now on dangerous ground but skilfully replied:

“… I agree that it is wrong, but I repeat what I have said, that it is my duty to follow the examples given me by my masters…”

Veronese was probably now becoming a little fearful at the way the questioning was going and so decided to go down the line of – if you think I have blasphemed with my painting, what about the much beloved Michelangelo’s work in the Vatican.  Veronese expanded:

“…In Rome, in the Pope’s Chapel, Michelangelo has represented Our Lord, His Mother, St. John, St. Peter, and the celestial court; and he has represented all these personages nude, including the Virgin Mary, and in various attitudes not inspired by the most profound religious feeling…”

Other diners

The Inquisitors however would not criticise Michelangelo’s work, merely saying that in the depiction of the Last Judgement, which Veronese was referring to, it was only natural that the people were without clothes and that the work had been inspired by the Holy Spirit.  They then turned on Veronese stating that there was no indication that his work had been so inspired by the Holy Spirit and that he needed to make some changes to it.  They then compared Michelangelo’s work with his and commented:

“…There are neither buffoons, dogs, weapons, nor other absurdities. Do you think, therefore, according to this or that view, that you did well in so painting your picture, and will you try to prove that it is a good and decent thing?..”

A little trickier was the question as to why he would include a jester with a parrot on his wrist in such a “sacred” work.  However, he was not to be browbeaten and simply answered:

“…He is there as an ornament, as it is usual to insert such figures…”

 Veronese did however agree with his inquisitors that there was only Christ and his twelve apostle present at the table during the Last Supper but forwarded the reason for the inclusion of so many characters.  He said that the painting was to be so large that he had to fill the space with something, saying:

“…when I have some space left over in a picture I adorn it with figures of my own invention…” 

The inquisitors countered Veronese’s argument by asking him whether he thought he had the right to mock the Last Supper by including irreligious figures, such as buffoons, dwarves, a dog, a cat and worst of all Germans.  Veronese replied:

“…No, but I was commissioned to adorn it as I thought proper; now it is very large and can contain many figures…”

The way in which Veronese had depicted the Last Supper seen in the central background was also criticised by the Inquisition.  This was not similar to the portrayal of Last Supper à la Leonardo.  Veronese’s table scene was more of an everyday festive scene and this was not lost on the inquisitors who wanted to know what was going on at the supper table.  They started by questioning Veronese as to who was sitting down with Christ.  He answered:

“…The twelve apostles…”

They then questioned what the person, Saint Peter, on the right hand of Christ was doing.  The artist responded:

“… He is carving the lamb in order to pass it to the other part of the table and Christ holds a plate to see what Saint Peter will give him…”

On questioning what a third person at the table was doing he merely commented:

“…. He is picking his teeth with a fork…”

In a desperate final attempt to justify the inclusion of all the extra people, both normal and strange, he pointed out that such elements that displeased the Inquisition, such as the dog, the dwarf, the blackamoors, the man with the nosebleed, who is seen holding a handkerchief at the left of the picture, were all in the foreground or the sides of the painting, and did not, in any way, form an incursion into the religious depiction of Christ at supper at the centre of the work.

Venetian guest arriving for supper
Venetian guest arriving for supper

With a terrible sense of foreboding the questions came to an end and Veronese awaited his fate. So, it was much to his surprise that at the end of the interrogation Veronese was told that he was a free man.  However as the Inquisition could not accept his argument for adding what they termed “anti-conformist elements” he was given three months to correct the painting at his own expense.  They required him to paint out the dog, and replace it with the Magdalene.  He was also to expunge the German soldiers and it was all to be done within three months. Paolo Veronese, who had feared torture and even death because of his heretical depiction of the Last Supper, couldn’t believe his luck.  So how had he managed to escape the full force of the Inquisition?  Maybe the answer lay in the fact that the Inquisition had much reduced powers in Venice and the inquisitors knew that they could only threaten and not use the brutal methods of torture that was taking place in other countries such as Spain and Italy.  They simply wanted to frighten Veronese in the hope that he would think twice before he again combined secularity with religious scenes.  The Inquisition in Venice was also fully aware that every judgement they made was scrutinised by the Venetian Senate, who were ready to drastically curtail their powers, if they dared to take away the liberty of a Venetian subject and, of course,  Paolo Veronese was one such subject.

Date on column and reference to Luke's Gospel
Date on column and reference to Luke’s Gospel

Veronese never made any of the major changes to his painting that the Inquisition had demanded, but in deference to Ecclesiastical sensibilities and not wishing to push his luck, he added the inscription across the top of the pillars at the head of the staircases, the ones which also showed the date of completion.  The inscription read:

Fecit D.Covi Magnum Levi                       Luca Cap. V

This was in reference to a passage in Luke’s gospel of the New Testament (Luke 5: 27-29):

“…After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.  Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them…”

He then merely changed the title of the work from The Last Supper to Feast at the House of Levi and by doing so was able to retain the dog and removed the need for it to be replaced by a repentant Magdalene prostrating herself on the floor before Christ.  Veronese’s decision not to make the changes pleased both the friars who loved the painting, and for the majority of Venetians who resented Rome’s inquisition.   The painting remained in the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo until Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops marched into Venice in 1797 and he ordered it be taken back to Paris.   It was returned to Venice a decade later and remained in the church until 1815, at which time it was acquired by the Accademia Galleries in Venice, its current home.

One final thought as to why Veronese would add so many people into a religious scene.   A decade earlier, in 1563, he had completed a similar monumental religious commission for the monks, entitled the Wedding at Cana, which now hangs in the Louvre.  It is interesting to note that it was the monks who had asked him to squeeze as many figures into their painting, as possible.  This was however at a time when the Inquisition and the upholding of Counter-Reformation ideals had yet to reach Venice.

Two Venetian Ladies by Vittore Carpaccio

Two Venetian Ladies by Carpaccio (C.1510)

We know Vittore Carpaccio was born in Venice but his precise birth date is not known but it is thought to be around 1460.  His father Piero Scarpazza, who came from nearby Istria, was a leather merchant.  Vittore is believed to have trained in the studio of the Jacopo Bellini family, which at that time after his death, was run by his two sons, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini.  Carpaccio’s art was very much influenced by the works of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini as well as Antonello da Messina, the Sicilian Renaissance painter who introduced the Netherlandish Renaissance art of Flanders and Holland to Venice.  Later he would work as an assistant to the Paduan artist, who had a studio in Venice, Lazzaro Bastiani

Carpaccio’s greatest work of art was his large nine painting series entitled The Legend of Saint Ursula, which was originally meant for the Scuola di sant’Orsola but can now be found in the Gallerie dell’Academia in Venice.   This work completed in 1497 is absolutely breathtaking and is one that should be a “must see” if you visit Venice.  I featured one of the large paintings in My Daily Art Display, March 22nd 2011.  During the first decade of the sixteenth century, Carpaccio worked on a series of paintings for the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace along with his former tutor Giovanni Bellini. Unfortunately, like many other major works, the series was entirely lost in the disastrous fire of 1577.  This was the third serious fire to devastate rooms in that building.

Between 1502 and 1507 Carpaccio worked on a cycle of canvases for the Scuola di S.Giorgio degli Schiavoni, with the story of St. George and the dragon and episodes from the life of St. Jerome.   Following this Carpaccio started in 1511 to work on a series of paintings based on the life of St. Stephen in the Scuola di S. Stefano.  It took him three years to complete the works.  Carpaccio received many commissions including ones from the Venetian government.

His popularity in the ten years prior to his death in 1525 waned mainly due to a young artist who had arrived in Venice in 1500 and like Carpaccio went to work for the Bellini brothers.  His name was Tiziano Vecellio, better known simply as Titian and it was this young man who was to amass numerous commissions from the Venetian government and rich Venetian patrons.  Carpaccio ended his career back in the provinces where his somewhat out-dated approach to art still attracted many buyers.   After his death he was almost completely forgotten as an artist but now art historians look upon him as a fifteenth century Venetian artist, only bettered by Giovanni Bellini.

My Daily Art Display’s featured work today is a tempera and oil on wood panel painting entitled Two Venetian Ladies and can be found at the Correr Museum in Venice.  It was completed by Carpaccio around 1510.  Before us are two unknown Venetian ladies.  Who they were has never been agreed on by art historians.  They sit there with what can only be described as vacant and bored expressions.  Early scholars including the English art critic, John Ruskin, believed that the two ladies were high class courtesans, a polite term for high class prostitutes, and they were waiting for their rich clients. John Ruskin, who thought this work at the time was one of the finest in the world, actually referred to the painting as Two Courtesans.   The story of the two ladies was further embellished by stating that the small page we see to the left of the painting has just arrived with a message from a lover for one of the ladies.  Another reason Ruskin and other believers in the “courtesan” argument gave for their theory was that in front of the page, on the floor, are a pair of wedge platform sandals which were often worn by prostitutes to make themselves look taller.  Those who did not accept the “courtesan” theory pointed out that most women of the time wore such sandals.

However, those who did not accept the “courtesan scenario” would have us believe that because of their exquisite clothing and expensive jewelry, they were members of the aristocratic Torella family.  Another reason for believing that they were not courtesans, mistresses of rich men, is Carpaccio’s inclusion in the painting of a white handkerchief held by one of the ladies, strings of pearls worn around their necks of both women, and the white doves perched on the balustrade, which were known as the birds of the Goddess of Love, Venus, and all of which symbolized chastity.

Hunting on the Lagoon by Carpaccio (c.1510)

In 1944 all the speculation about the Two Venetian Ladies painting changed when the upper half of the painting was discovered.   Professor Pamela Fortini Brown of Princeton University may have solved the question regarding the two ladies as she wrote that this painting is part of a larger one, in fact the lower right hand section of a very large work.     The upper right half of the original work is now housed in the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and is entitled Hunting in the Lagoon.  This upper part depicts several boats in a lagoon.  Because of the way only half of the dog’s head is shown in the painting, suddenly cut off behind its ears, it is thought there is a complete missing left hand side of the work in which the rest of the dog is depicted.

So now we must rethink what we are seeing in the original painting.   One now must believe that the husbands of the two ladies seated are in this party of hunters and that the ladies are waiting their return.  We can see each boat has a group of three rowers and an archer who all stand in these shallow-bottomed craft and hunt the glossy black cormorants which they will sell or train to catch and retrieve fish from the lake.   Rather than bring the bird down with an arrow which would damage the plumage, the archers use clay pellets which will stun the birds. If we now consider the two paintings together it would explain the meaning of the paintings title, as the two women are awaiting their husbands’ return after a hunting and fishing expedition in the Venetian lagoon. Look closely at the two paintings.

Juxtaposition of the two paintings

So do you agree the two paintings are part of one original work?  Observe the majolica vase of flowers on the balustrade in the upper left background of the Two Venetian Ladies painting.  Note how the stalk of the flower is cut off at the top edge of the work.  Now look at the bottom left foreground of the Hunting on the Lagoon painting and you can see the stem and head of a lily which when looking at just that painting makes no sense, but if the two paintings are juxtaposed, one on top of the other, one can then see that the head of the lily in one painting is a continuation of the stem protruding from the vase in the other painting.  Add to this visual evidence the fact that when the two panels were examined, the wood grain of the two panels was found to be identical and this confirmed that they were once a single panel. It is thought that the two parts were probably sawed apart some time before the nineteenth century.

Meeting of the Betrothed Couple and the Departure of the Pilgrims by Vittore Carpaccio

Meeting of the Betrothed Couple and the Departure of the Pilgrims (1495)

My Daily Art Display today features a painting by the Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio.  The painting is massive in size, measuring 280cms high and 611cms wide (9ft high by 20ft wide).  It is one of a series of nine, tempera on canvas, paintings.   The set of paintings, commissioned in 1488 by the Lordean family  They were a noble Venetian dynasty, three of whom became Doges of Venice, including Doge Leonardo Lordean whose portrait by Bellini was featured in an earlier blog (Nov 17th).   The paintings were created for the Scuola di Sant’ Orsola (Ursula) in Venice, a confraternity ( a type of brotherhood or society) of which the Lordean family was a patron.  All nine paintings can now be found in the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice.  The artist was asked to tell the story of Saint Ursula through a series of paintings.  This legendary tale of the northern saint, Ursula, was very popular in the Middle Ages and Carpaccio’s design for the paintings came from Jacobus de Varigine’s Legenda Aurea (Golden Legends) which featured stories of the Saints and which had only just been translated into Italian.

The legend of Saint Ursula has like all good stories, over time, been added to and twisted, to make it a more thrilling tale.  The story is as follows….

At that time young girls did not choose their own husbands, their parents decided whom they would marry. A powerful pagan king and ruler of what is now Brittany requested of Ursula’s father that she would marry his son Ethereus. The pagan king sent ambassadors to Ursula’s father offering large sums of money and other promises if the marriage took place. However they added terrible threats of what would happen if the marriage were not to take place. Ursula’s father was very troubled by this turn of events.  He was afraid of the violent reaction of the other king if he declined the request and he wasn’t sure that Ursula would agree to marry and in any case both he and Ursula would prefer a Christian marriage.

However much to her father’s surprise Ursula, inspired by God, agreed to the marriage but only on certain conditions.   She demanded that her father and the pagan king put ten girls at her disposal and each of them would be accompanied by another thousand girls and that she and her entourage of ten thousand virgins would travel to Rome and once there, she would be granted three years to dedicate herself to God and that her future husband, Ethereus, would receive Christian instruction for baptism.  Ursula actually thought the proposal would be withdrawn on these conditions – but no, the king agreed and Ursula’s demands were carried out immediately.

Ursula’s father also invited a group of young men to accompany her and young people began arriving from all directions to join the voyage. During the journey Ursula converted all the girls to Christianity and soon they arrived in Cologne, Germany. Here an angel appeared to Ursula and told her that she and all her companions would return to this place and win the crown of martyrdom.

They moved on to Rome and Pope Cyriacus was delighted to see them since he himself came from Britain and he had many relations among Ursula’s travelling companions. That night an angel told the Pope that he too along with Ursula and her companions would gain the crown of martyrdom. In the next few days Pope Cyriacus asked to join Ursula’s group. He put another Pope in his place called Ametos. Pope Cyriacus, Ursula and her companions set out to return to Cologne.

The Huns were afraid that Christianity would become popular and that many people would become Christians. They gathered an army and plotted to kill Ursula and all her companions on their arrival back in Cologne.

Back in Britain, Ethereus who had now become king received a message from an angel that Ursula was on her way back to Cologne with the Pope and her companions and that he should go quickly and join them. He too would become a martyr. Ethereus set off for Germany and met Ursula and her companions in Cologne.

When Ursula and her companions arrived in Cologne they met the Huns who were only interested in women for pleasure. Ursula and her young girls resisted this violation. Julius, leader of the Huns, instructed his army to kill them all, including Ethereus and the ex-pope Cyriacus. Julius decided not to kill Ursula as he thought she was so beautiful he wanted to marry her. Ursula firmly refused his proposal because she wanted to keep the promise she had made to God to remain a virgin. Julius was so enraged he threw an arrow towards her, which pierced her heart and killed her. And so Ursula and her companions were martyred in Cologne.

With that story in mind Vittorio Carpacci set about his nine-painting story of Saint Ursula.  He didn’t paint the canvases in the chronological order of the events but in the order that the wall space at the Scuola di Sant’ Orsola was available for him.  He began this huge commission in 1490 and did not complete the ninth canvas until 1496. The full list of paintings is as follows:

Arrival of the Ambassadors – the arrival of the ambassadors of the pagan King of England at the Court of the Christian King of Brittany, to ask for the hands of his daughter Ursula for the son of their Lord

The Departure of the Ambassadors-  the conditions Ursula sets out before accepting the marriage proposal

The Return of the Ambassadors- the ambassadors return to the English Court

Meeting of Ursula and the Prince and the Departure of the Pilgrims-  the farewells and Ursula’s pilgrimage

The Saint’s Dream- the dream in which Ursula is forewarned of her martyrdom

Meeting of the Pilgrims with the Pope- her encounter with Pope Cyriacus in Rome

Arrivals of the Pilgrims in Cologne- her arrival in Cologne, occupied by the Huns

The Martyrdom and the Funeral of St. Ursula – the slaughter of the pilgrims and Ursula’s funeral

Glory of St. Ursula-  St Ursula in glory above the host of martyrs

I am not going to give you the nine paintings over nine days as I think that would be a little hard to swallow so for My Daily Art Display today, I have just chosen one – the fourth painting of the cycle entitled Meeting of the Betrothed Couple and the Departure of the Pilgrims which Carpaccio completed in 1495.  This was the largest of the nine paintings which make up the Stories of the Life of Saint Ursula.

The painting has been divided vertically into two halves by a pennant with its fluttering banners atop.  The various events which take place are all incorporated in this one painting.  To the left of the pennant we see Eretheus taking leave of his father and to the right we see the betrothed couple meeting for the first time as they prepare to depart from her parents and board their twelve-oared sloop and then to their ship.  To the left one can see their ship having departed with its sails billowing in the wind and the inscription “MALO” which is rather like a foreboding of what is to befall the pilgrims as they start their journey to Rome.

In the left background, perched on top of a hill we have the English town with its walled fortification and this is in complete contrast to the city in Britanny built along the water’s edge, which is shown on the right hand side of the painting and seems to be without any fortification at all.    It is thought that the buildings Carpaccio has placed on the right hand side of the painting were copies of Venetian palaces that were built at the end of the 15th century.   To the left of centre of the middle-ground Carpaccio has given us two towers situated on the steep slopes of the hill and fortified by high walls.  These are reproductions of the towers of the Knights of Rhodes and St Mark of Candia and more than likely modelled on the pictures found in Bernhard Von Breydenbach book Peregrinatio in terram sanctum.

Antonio Loredan (seated on the right)

The bridges, piers and harbour-lined streets are full of people attired in the most decorative clothing.  People hang out of windows to catch a glimpse of the departure of the betrothed couple.  In the foreground sitting on the left of the central pennant and looking slightly towards us is Antonio Loredan, a member of the family who commissioned this work.  He is splendidly dressed and one can see, embroidered on his sleeve, the coat of arms of the Fratelli Zardinieri, one of the Compagnie della Calza.   In the centre-middleground on has the busy harbour and to the left we can see a large vessel lying on its side whilst the wooden planking of its hull is being re-caulked

This work of art is a hive of activity and one can spend lots of time scrutinising every facet of this large painting.  I look forward to going to Venice next month and visiting the Gallerie dell’ Accademia and standing in front of this magnificent work of art and the eight other paintings of the St Ursula cycle and absorbing all that is on display.