Artibus et Historiae no. 35 (XVIII)

1997, ISSN 0391-9064

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BEVERLY LOUISE BROWN - Veronese and the Church Triumphant: The Altarpieces for San Benedetto Po

Veronese's three altarpieces of 1652 for the Benedictine abbey of San Benedetto Po, near Mantua, belong to the final stage of a comprehensive decorative program that had been initiated some twenty years earlier by Giulio Romano. The altarpieces were intended as an interlocking part of Giulio's iconographic scheme that meant to reaffirm traditional Benedictine beliefs, celebrate the monastic way of life, and extol the virtues of study. These were the principles that the monks at San Benedetto Po had embraced as they attempted to reform the order. However, the decrees issued at the first sessions of the Council of Trent in 1546 excluded much of this theology as a new doctrinal force stressing affective devotion began to take hold. Saints were increasingly cast as models for the faithful and a new emphasis was placed on the role of the Virgin. Veronese's altarpieces illustrates a subtle, but important, shift in decoration during the Tridentine period. Rather than depicting a sta­tic and hierarchic arrangement of passive saints gathered in the presence of the Madonna and Child, in these altarpieces Veronese describes for the spectator the occurrence of a miraculous event.

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