NEW ORLEANS, LA – The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) presents Veronese in Murano, a focused exhibition featuring two Renaissance masterpieces by the celebrated artist Paolo Veronese (1528–1588). NOMA is honored to be the second and final venue for the paintings, titled St. Jerome in the Wilderness and St. Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter, on view April 19 through September 3, 2018. The exhibition was organized by The Frick Collection in New York City in honor of the full restoration of the works by Venetian Heritage, and with the generous support of BVLGARI. Though known to scholars, the paintings’ remote location in a church in Murano, an island in the lagoon of Venice known today for its glassmaking studios and shops, made them difficult to access and study. Veronese in Murano marks the first time the restored masterworks have been exhibited outside Italy since their creation 450 years ago.
“The Veronese masterworks complement NOMA’s strength in Northern Italian art, particularly works from 16th, 17th and 18th century Venice,” said Susan Taylor, NOMA’s Montine McDaniel Freeman Director. “We are pleased to be able to present these magnificent paintings to the people of the city of New Orleans.” In 1566, the Venetian priest Francesco degli Arbori commissioned St. Jerome in the Wilderness and St. Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter for a small chapel the priest had built just outside the church and convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli. St. Jerome in the Wilderness was placed over the main chapel altar, and facing it over the entry door was St. Agatha Visited by St. Peter in Prison. For his chapel, the priest chose Saint Jerome as a model because the saint had translated the Bible into Latin, and Saint Agatha for her exemplary piety as an early Christian martyr. The dynamic movement of the figures, bold modeling, and open and scintillating brushwork combined with high-keyed color create a dramatic effect, representing Veronese at the height of his abilities.
To protect the two canvases from the humidity of the chapel and from the risk of theft, the nuns of Santa Maria degli Angeli moved them inside the main church in 1667. By the early nineteenth century, the two paintings had been transported to another church in Murano, San Pietro Martire. St. Jerome in the Wilderness has been exhibited outside the church only once—in 1939— while St. Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter has not left the church since being installed in the early nineteenth century.
“Because these works had never left the small island of Murano until their recent renovation, there is certainly mystery surrounding them,” said Vanessa Schmid, NOMA’s Senior Research Curator for European Art. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to showcase Veronese’s vibrant style and theatricality.”
During 2016–2017, the two Veronese masterpieces were fully restored by Venetian Heritage, thanks to the sponsorship of BVLGARI, which initiated thorough research on the history of the paintings. The accompanying publication, Veronese in Murano: Two Venetian Renaissance Masterpieces Restored, includes essays which review the genesis of the paintings in their original context, and a full analysis of the conversation treatment.
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Learn more about the history of St. Jerome in the Wilderness and St. Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter, courtesy of The Frick Collection.
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 5,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 AM to 9 PM; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 AM to 6 PM; Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sundays from 11 AM to 5 PM. NOMA offers docent-guided tours at 1 PM every Tuesday – Sunday. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 AM to 6 PM. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org. Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation. Teenagers (ages 13-19) receive free admission every day through the end of the year, courtesy of The Helis Foundation.
Video: Sixteenth-century Venetian masterpieces by Paolo Veronese to arrive at NOMA
Prized as one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, the work of Paolo Veronese, named after his hometown of Verona, is admired for its splendid colorito, lively brushwork, and theatricality. Two recently restored paintings exemplifying the glory of Veronese’s art on view in the focus gallery from April 18 – September 3, 2018. NOMA is only the second museum in the US to exhibit these works, following their American debut at the Frick Museum in New York. (See the video below for a preview of Veronese In Murano: Two Venetian Renaissance Masterpieces Restored.)
Painted in 1566-67 for a side chapel of the church of Santa Maria degli Arbori on the Venetian island of Murano, the two paintings are mid-career masterpieces. In November 1566, the priest Santo Stefano sought to build a private a chapel adjacent to the church where he served as chaplain. The chapel was to be dedicated to Saint Jerome, one of the four doctors of the Western Church. The nuns of Santa Maria degli Arbori decided to move the paintings from the chapel to the main church by 1667, and they were later transferred to their present location San Pietro Martire after the Napoleonic invasion closed the monastery.
For the main altar of the chapel, Saint Jerome is heroically presented to the viewer, kneeling in prayer before the crucifix. Light streaming from above and beyond the frame at upper right, highlights the old man’s face and chest, the hand holding the stone of his self-flagellation catches the light out of shadow. The bold light, textures, and emotional expression, showcase Veronese’s dramatic approach. The lion at left refers to the story that Jerome helped the ailing beast by removing a needle from its paw, inciting its loyalty and companionship.
The brilliant blues and oranges of the sky and the rose silk tunic of Jerome exemplify the high-keyed tones of Veronese’s greatest works, while the intensity of Jerome’s feeling—in facial expression, tensed muscles, revelatory gaze, tears streaming are arresting. A learned Roman of the fourth century, hermit St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, later known as the Vulgate bible. After his arrival in Palestine, he endured trials in the desert of Syria. This period of his life is referenced in Veronese’s scene.
Likely facing the painting of Saint Jerome, the second picture from the altarpiece depicts the early Christian sixth-century martyr Saint Agatha. She has been imprisoned by the Roman Consul Quintinian, who wanted to seduce her despite her avowal of chastity. Agatha is shown in her prison cell in the moments after her torture, when she had a vision of Saint Peter, entering at right lead by a torch-bearing angel and hold his attribute of the keys of the gates to heaven. Her wounds were miraculously healed by the vision and faith.
Under torture, Agatha’s breasts were cut off, and here the mutilation is shown, somewhat decorously, with blood streaking her cloak. Agatha was from Sicily and is cherished in the Sicilian cities of Catania and Palermo, which both claim her birthplace, and she remains the patron saint of breast disease.
Both pictures will be displayed in magnificent late Baroque frames in exception state of preservation. These later frames were added after the paintings were moved to the main church. Also newly cleaned, the technical virtuosity of the carving and elegant acanthus-leaf motifs exemplify the height of woodworking traditions in the city. The two Veronese paintings from Murano have been restored by Venetian Heritage with the support of BVLGARI, and their conservation was accompanied by thorough research into their history.
—Vanessa Schmid, Senior Research Curator for European Art