THE FEAST IN THE HOUSE OF LEVI

TINTORETTO: 1573

This painting is one of the larger paintings in the world and measures (18 x 42 ft or 555 by 1280 cm).

Veronese was commissioned in 1573 by the convent of Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo to produce a painting of the Last Supper. It was intended to replace an earlier Last Supper painting created by Titian that was destroyed by fire in 1571. His finished work very quickly alerted the suspicions of the Holy Office.

Veronese’s interpretation of this Biblical event was highly controversial, as it contained a noticeable amount of secular and profane imagery, which the Inquisition found inappropriate for a Last Supper painting.

Veronese was soon summoned to appear before a tribunal of the Roman Catholic Inquisition to defend himself against charges of heresy.

Veronese defended his painting by claiming that this painting had a large amount of space for him to fill; thus, on a practical level, he had to fill in any superfluous space left over which is why he included these figures. The artist also stated that he felt the placement of these figures was a good distance away from Christ, keeping them from tainting the image of the Last Supper.

The Inquisition asked Veronese to change various figures in the painting (for example, the dog in the foreground should be replaced by Mary Magdalene). However, Veronese declined this option and was of the opinion that the artist should have artistic freedom to create the painting in his or her own way. Instead, he decided to change the title of the painting into The Feast in the House of Levi (which you can see written in Latin in the cornice to the left of the dwarf jester). This solution satisfied the Inquisition, the commissioners, as this dinner is one of the few dinners of Jesus that is not considered sacred by the Catholic Church.

Things the inquisition found inappropriate and wanted Veronese to change.

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1. JESUS

Content Here

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2. APOSTLES

To the left of Jesus is St Peter, to the right St John, that's all the apostles that can be identified. Maybe Judas is hiding in the shadows maybe the apostle across from St John turning away.

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

According the the Inquisition, Jesters do not belong in a last supper painting.

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

Drunk looking soldiers!

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

German soldiers, maybe even Lutherans, and with weapons!

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

Dogs were not appropriate at the Last Supper. They wanted it changed to Mary Magdalene.

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

A man with a bloody nose, not sure I see blood but he is holding a rag.

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THINGS INQUISITION FOUND INAPPROPRIATE

A man painted between the columns picking his teeth with a fork, very disrespectful.

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7. DATE

On the bottom of this column, refers to the date painting was completed.

DIE XX APR

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9. INSCRIPTION READS

Fecit D.Covi Magnum Levi: on the capital of the column on the left

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6. INSCRIPTION READS

Luca Cap. V: on the column on the right

This was in reference to a passage in Luke’s gospel of the New Testament. Added it after inquisition determining needed to change the painting.
verse Veronese refers to that includes "sinners" at a banquet so he could change the title of the painting.

"And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, 'Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?' And Jesus answering said unto them, 'They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'" (Luke 5: 29-32).

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3. BACKGROUND

The background is typical of Venetian architect, not the time period of early Christians.

This style is called a "capriccio": an architectural fantasy based on real buildings.

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8. RESEMBLANCE TO VERONESE?

Not a self portrait, but resembles Veronese with his high forehead and distinctive nose.

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4. CHARACTER LOOKS SIMILAR TO A ROMAN BUST

The bust of Vitellius was discovered in Rome around 1505, and was sent to Venice by the Cardinal Domenico Grimani in 1523. From 1525–93, the bust was displayed in the Doge’s palace where artists could study and make casts from it. Given the scarcity of classical statuary in Venice, the Grimani Vitellius became an important reference point for sixteenth-century Venetian artists, who regularly used it as a model for figures in their own works, or as the subject for studies.

Using the features of Roman emperors in art, particularly in scenes of the Life of Christ, allowed painters to show their knowledge of classical art.

The identity of the bust has recently been disputed.

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5. APOSTLE

Notice the strange positioning of the apostle leaning over the balustrade into the scene. The apostles are normally all seated at the table of a last supper.

Compare this character to the real bust of a Roman Emporer found in the 16th century.