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Scorn
Paolo Veronese
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Given the title Scorn in 1727, this is one of a series of four paintings by Veronese that concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear. The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the pictures were intended for a ceiling or a series of ceilings.

A naked man is lying on a ruined classical structure. Cupid stands on the man’s chest and beats him with his bow, the string of which has snapped. Cupid seems to be chastising him for his devotion to hedonistic sexuality.

A bare-breasted woman looks down on him, apparently with disdain, as she is lead away by another woman holding an ermine, an emblem of purity and moderation, as well as of pregnancy and childbirth. The women may symbolise the interdependent earthly and divine aspects of love, while the man’s hedonistic sexuality is represented as inadmissible in a virtuous life.

Key facts
Artist Paolo Veronese
Artist dates 1528 - 1588
Full title Scorn
Series Four Allegories of Love
Date made about 1575
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 186.6 x 188.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1891
Inventory number NG1324
Location in Gallery Room 11
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Four Allegories of Love

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These four paintings by Veronese concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear and have been much debated. The titles are not original and were given to the paintings in 1727. The scenes are not necessarily meant to go in any particular order.

The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the paintings were intended for a ceiling or a series of ceilings. The lower parts of the compositions seem to have been cut, and in several cases the feet of the figures are not visible. These features are disconcerting when the pictures are hung on a wall. The composition of each painting forms a strong diagonal, which would help relate the paintings to each other on a ceiling. We do not know who commissioned them, but it may have been a wealthy patron in Venice or one of the Holy Roman Emperors.

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