Four masterpieces in the Veronese show

Artisan or aristocrat? Paolo Caliari came to be known as Veronese because he came from Verona; he was born to Gabriele Bazaro and Caterina Caliari in Verona in 1528. He did not use the name Caliari until after his father’s death in 1555, signing one of his earliest contracts for a commission Paullo spezapreda (Paolo the stonecutter). “We now know that his mother was an illegitimate daughter of a noble,” Nicholas Penny says, “and that’s probably why he was able to use the name Caliari. That’s actually very interesting, because I don’t think you can go round calling yourself by a patrician name without being likely to incur the anger of the family, which it would be rather unwise to do. So, presumably, the Caliari family said: ‘We’re quite proud of this chap.’ Apart from that, he was also fairly wealthy by then; he is a person of some distinction. So you’ve got this almost working-class, or at least artisanal, background, with certain noble connections.” Penny suggests that Veronese “came from a background of people who knew how to defer and how to get on, and how to behave like gentlemen as well. And no one has ever been better at depicting good manners.” B.L.