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The Wedding Feast at Cana


The painting combines two themes - a religious story in a setting of a lavish Venetian wedding. It's also the largest one in the Louvre's collection.

Religious story - Jesus Christ performs his first miracle ever - turning water into wine at a wedding feast is Cana, Galilee (present day Israel). This alcohol making miracle is a precursor to the Eucharist (a ceremony where Christian eat holy bread and drink holy wine in commemoration of the Last Supper).

The wedding crowd is a mix of Biblical figures and contemporary at the time Venetians - from apostles to Venetian noblemen and turbaned merchants from the East and the regular people of Venice. Imagine Jesus and other religious figures painted next to Letterman, Kim Kardashian, Jimmy Kimmel, Donald Trump and a bunch of Senators and a bunch of average Joes.

Christ is sitting right in the center because he is the most important figure in this painting.  Next to him is an elderly woman - the Virgin Mary. They both have halos. The painting is divided into two realms - the celestial blue sky and the terrestrial crowd of people. The painter used the most expensive paint imported from the East to paint the Wedding Feast at Cana. The artwork is full of symbolism - a butchered lamb symbolized Christ's upcoming sacrifice, an hourglass - vanity of earthly pleasures. A total of 130 figures are attending this wedding and nobody is visibly speaking. Everyone is eating desert, so the presence of butchered animal further indicates that their purpose is symbolic.

The painting was commissioned by a bunch of monks to decorate their monastery (which shows just how rich the monasteries were). They wanted a huge painting with an illusion of extended space. It took 15 months to complete it. The artwork was a turning point in Veronese's career and soon every monastery wanted something painted by him. Paolo Veronese - his last name Veronese comes from the city he was born in - Verona in Italy. He later moved to Venice and spent all of his life there. He was a son of an illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and a stonecutter. 

How did it end up in France? Napoleon took it! Despite the enormous size, the painting was stolen, cut in half, rolled up and brought it to France. Bad guy Napoleon. The painting wasn't returned in post-war treaties where France was supposed to return some plundered art.

As you can imagine, all the transporting, cutting up in half, stitching, rolling up left it's mark. In 1989 the Louvre began a 1 million $ renovation process which was an embarrassment - The Wedding Feast at Cana was damaged by water leaking out of the air vent and fell to the floor when trying to hang it. The museum tried to cover up these incidents and was criticized harshly for it. Though now, it is well restored - even the expensive paint is showing it's real color.