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Paolo Veronese, The Family of Darius before Alexander

Key facts
Full title The Family of Darius before Alexander
Artist Paolo Veronese
Artist dates 1528 - 1588
Date made 1565-7
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 236.2 × 474.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG294
Location Room 9
Collection Main Collection
The Family of Darius before Alexander
Paolo Veronese

Alexander the Great, the Macedonian emperor, visits the distraught family of King Darius III of Persia, who he has defeated in battle. Darius’s mother Sisigambis mistakes Alexander’s friend Hephaestion, who wears plate armour and an orange cloak, for the victor. Alexander comforts Sisigambis, who calls on him to be merciful to Darius’s wife and children. Alexander insists that the family be treated as royalty and retain their finery.

It’s likely that Veronese was commissioned to make this painting by the Venetian Pisani family, who continued to own it until it was purchased in 1857 by the National Gallery. It has often been assumed that The Family of Darius is a glorified Pisani family portrait, but this is unlikely as the faces reappear in other unrelated paintings by Veronese.

Few if any of Veronese’s large paintings are likely to have been painted entirely by him; they would have been completed by studio assistants. However, the superior quality of this impressive painting suggests he worked on every part of it.

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