Paolo Veronese is like the Gordon Ramsey of Renaissance artists but without the attitude.
Imagine Veronese getting an order placed, then calling out instructions to his staff to get to work, much like a celebrity chef making sure his well trained culinary team can execute a menu to perfection and being able to show off in the process.
"A Renaissance artist workshop is a bit like a fancy restaurant run by a celebrity chef," said Frederick Ilchman, Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston during a walk-through of a new Veronese exhibit that opens Friday at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "…Paolo Veronese was supervising a hell of activity, and he had family members and a bunch of his assistance following his recipes. The point is that when you go to a fancy restaurant, it's not like the chef is actually cooking for you, but guaranteeing that chef's style."
That's pretty much this Venetian Renaissance painter in a nutshell. Though instead of yelling "fat cow" at his staff like Ramsey, Veronese would probably paint a cow, like in Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which is contained in The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art's collection and is John Ringling's first Old Master painting he acquired.
Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice opens Friday and runs through April 14 inside Ringling's Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing.
Like a signature ingredient, Veronese would find certain elements or subjects in his paintings that he would reuse for efficiency and effect, too, to help churn out the works that, well, work.
Veronese would make sure his workers would complete brush strokes to reflect sheen or convey the depth of clothing a certain way in paint, Ilchman said.
"Veronese is just a master of open textures," he said.
What's the Renaissance way of showing off in art? Veronese was one of the first artists of his time to paint full body portraits of nobleman showing off the grandeur of nobles, which can be seen in Portrait of Francesco Franceschini. In those days, you had better be a king, queen or pope to have a portrait of you standing head to toe.
The 1551 painting is believed to be Veronese's first known surviving, full-standing portrait and happens to be in Ringling's collection. Oh, and the artist was only 23 years old when he complete the work.
"When I think about what I was doing at 23, it certainly wasn't at that scale," Brilliant said.
Even painting the chic black clothing of the time and conveying the textures was a show-off move for Veronese, Brilliant added.
Beside it stands the work of a Veronese pupil, Giovanni Antonio Fasolo to show how much Veronese's style was instilled in his collaborators. The key in many of Veronese works is that Veronese didn't take all the credit for his work. His collaborators would also sign the work, Ilchman said.
Brilliant said she was in awe how Veronese could get a handle on such a large staff that included his brother and son.
"That in a way is more extraordinary than being the lone painter up in the garret," Brilliant said. "It takes a huge degree of discipline and diplomacy."
Much like Veronese's works, the exhibit itself was a collaborative effort between Brilliant and Ilchman where the two struck up a conversation over the painter over drinks at a museum conference in 2008.
Ilchman was familiar with Rest on the Flight into Egypt being in Ringling's collection and as the two brainstormed, they decided to work together to bring Veronese' works from North America to a one-city show here in Sarasota featuring some works never seen in a public exhibit.
Works from private collections plus the National Gallery of Art, Havard Art Museums, Cleveland Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum of the National Gallery of Canada have all loaned works to the exhibit.
As visitors stroll through the exhibit, they're taken into themed areas instead of taking a chronological journey. In one room, his full-standing portraits, altar panel works in another, Biblical paintings and his collaborators' works.
The art is also displayed in a way to provide the proper context and perspective that it was meant to be seen.
From panels that would appear high on Venetian buildings, ceilings or altar panels in a palladium inspired splendor, Brilliant said.
"We tried to pull the architecture and stenography in the paintings and out here in the galleries, and we actually done it using things from the Ringling's own collection," Brilliant said while gesturing toward a column.
Then there are pieces that are just so large, you cannot move them to another museum. So instead, the museum has a 7-foot by 8-foot photograph of the Galleria dell'Accademia in Venice featuring a large wall-to-wall piece of Veronese as museum patrons observe the works.
"You see people looking at these things and continuing to be in awe of them and loving them just as we are hoping you, too, will have that reaction when you come to this show," Brilliant said.
If you go
Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice
Dec. 5-April 14, 2013
Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing at Ringling Museum of Art
Museum Admission: Adults are $25; senior citizens (65 and over) are $20; children ages 6-17 are $5; a three-day pass is $35. Free Admission for children 5 and under accompanied by an adult, museum members. Advance tickets are available online or by calling 941.358.3180. Visit www.ringling.org for more information.
ViewPoint: Grand Collectors and their Grand Canvases: Veronese in England
10:30 a.m. Saturday
Historic Asolo Theater
Peter Humfrey, Professor of Art History, St. Andrews University, Scotland