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Unfaithfulness
Paolo Veronese
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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 woman with her back to the viewer sits between two clothed men, exchanging a note with one of them. It is inscribed with red letters which appear to spell either ‘che / uno possede’, meaning ‘which one person possesses’, or Ch.. / mi. p(ossede) meaning ‘which/who possesses me’ – the dots indicating illegible letters. The inscription may mean ‘she who has one man (should be satisfied)’ or possibly ‘she who has one lover (will always want another)’.

Even if this picture represents indecision in courtship rather than marital deceit, there is nothing within it to express disapproval.

Key facts
Artist Paolo Veronese
Artist dates 1528 - 1588
Full title Unfaithfulness
Group Four Allegories of Love
Date made about 1575
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 189.9 x 189.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1890
Inventory number NG1318
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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