Three's company

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  March 11, 2009

Venus with a Mirror (1585) is a reply to Titian's painting of 30 years earlier, Venus seen from the back, in contrapposto; what's missing is the sly way Titian entreats/entraps the viewer. Veronese is actually better at imitating Tintoretto. The Temptation of St. Anthony is tightly cropped and dynamic. Pinned down by his tormentors, St. Anthony writhes in agony; the male demon's back muscles ripple and he turns the crown of his head to us as the unusually (for Veronese) sensuous female demon scratches the saint's palm. St. Menna takes the form of a Roman soldier in armor with a red cloak, more Tintoretto territory, right down to the way the right elbow and left foot stick out of the picture plane.

Perseus and Andromeda, on the other hand, is one of a kind. Garbed in orange and sporting winged sandals, Perseus hangs in the air like a soaring superhero, his head turned so that we see only the top of his helmet. Andromeda, who's chained to a rock, twists in horror (more contrapposto), or perhaps she's invented a new dance step, her orange cloak falling away from her body. The leathery sea monster gapes, revealing an orange maw; the peachy dawn completes the color quadrangle whereby Veronese unifies his composition. It's not quite the invention of the comic strip, but close.

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