Holy Family with Young St John and St Catherine
Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese (Verona 1528 c. – Venezia 1588)
The extremely high quality of this work is highlighted by its splendid carved frame with cupid-angels holding the instruments of the Passion (crown of thorns, pincers, column, whip, and spear), iconographic references to the destiny of suffering that awaits the baby Jesus, who is depicted in the center of the canvas with his mother, St Joseph and the young St John, while he is being approached by a regal St Catherine. The carving’s marked plasticism and the frame’s overall design would suggest it was made in Rome, from designs by Pietro da Cortona, a great baroque artist, called to Florence by the Medici grand dukes to work on the fresco decoration in Pitti Palace. The work was painted by Paolo Veronese around 1565 and then kept in Venice as part of the Widmann collection. It was purchased by the “Serenissmi principi di Toscana”, Leopoldo and Giovan Carlo de’ Medici in 1654, following the suggestion of a Florentine merchant residing in Venice, Paolo del Sera. The painting was bought for the astronomical sum of 1000 scudos, proving the great success of Veronese among collectors and art “experts” in the neo-Venetian taste for figurative culture in the baroque period.