5 October 2006 -
7 January 2007

At Home in Renaissance Italy

Exhibition Highlights

The Da Porto Family

Paolo Veronese
About 1551 Venice
Oil on canvas

These two paintings by Paolo Veronese are among the earliest full-length portraits of a family. They were commissioned by Count Iseppo da Porto, one of the richest men in Vicenza. In 1545 he married a noblewoman, Livia Thiene, and in 1552 they moved into a 'fine palace' designed by Palladio, 'befitting a great prince and of unsurpassable magnificence'. The portraits were probably set in niches with a window between them. Separated centuries ago, these paintings have suffered different fates. The sides and lower part of the portrait of Livia have been trimmed and repainted. They are reunited for the first time in this exhibition.

Iseppo da Porto was a knight of the Holy Roman Empire. The sword at his waist was the ultimate symbol of masculinity and military prowess. Wearing a sword - a skill that had to be learnt in youth, as suggested by the portrait of Iseppo and his son - conditioned the way in which men walked. Iseppo's protective attitude towards his first born shows his fatherly affection. Timid Adriano, aged five, echoes his father's attire.

Livia came from a grander family than Iseppo. As a woman she is not meant to look at the viewer. Instead, she gazes at her husband, while tenderly embracing her daughter. She wears a fur-lined coat and a marten's pelt with a jewelled head, a fashion accessory believed to help women during the life-threatening processes of pregnancy and childbirth. The marten was thought to conceive through the ear and give birth through the mouth. The Holy Dove on the snout provided another layer of reassurance. Porzia, aged four, mirrors her mother's costume and serious countenance.

Veronese was one of the most celebrated artists working in Verona and Venice during the 16th century and was best known for his large paintings of biblical feasts. The Da Porto family was one of his first important commissions.

(L) Livia da Porto Thiene and her Daughter Porzia
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland 37.541

(R) Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Click on the images above for more information and an enlargement.