Artibus et Historiae no. 61 (XXXI)2010, ISSN 0391-9064
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MARCO CHIARINI - A Series of Paintings Depicting the Stories of Moses by Paolo Veronese and Workshop
In 1976 Terisio Pignatti published a painting representing Moses and the Burning Bush — then in storage in the Pitti Palace — with a provenance from the Villa of Poggio a Caiano, including it, at my suggestion, in his catalogue raisonné of the works of Paolo Veronese: it has since been accepted by other scholars and in 1988 it was shown in two exhibitions devoted to the artist. At that time no one could suspect that the painting was part of a series of five illustrating the main events in the life of Moses, of which four have now been identified (the fifth, representing Moses with the Tables of the Law and the Golden Calf, is still missing). The Finding of Moses, on loan to the Italian Embassy in Bonn, can be attributed to Benedetto Caliari. Another canvas of the series, which reappeared in the storeroom of the Villa of Poggio a Caiano, represents The Crossing of the Red Sea: the quality of the painting would suggest an autograph work by Veronese, and therefore the real pendant of the first picture.
On the occasion of this special publication devoted to the memory of my dear friend Konrad Oberhuber, I wished to do further research on this subject, also because Konrad, in two publications of 1968, pointed out that Veronese had copied from H. Cock's illustrations of ancient Rome (1551) in several ruins that appear in his frescoes in Villa Barbaro at Maser. Similar ruins are also to be found in the Moses and the Burning Bush, providing a clue for a dating in the 1560s, both of the Maser frescoes and the series devoted to Moses, once in the Villa of Poggio a Caiano, for which the earliest record known to us dates back to 1781. To the three pictures discussed above it is now possible to add another one, representing Moses Striking the Rock, on loan from the Florentine Galleries to the palace of the Senate in Rome, which, as G. Fioco thought, may also be attributed to Benedetto Caliari. The provenance of the paintings is still mysterious, but judging from their frames, which seem datable to the beginning of the 17th century, we are inclined to think that they were acquired by a member of the Medici family.