'Feast in the House of Levi': Veronese's Irreverent Take on The Last Supper

Sun, 01/18/2015 - 04:00
The Feast in the House of Levi

Festa a Casa di Levi - The Feast in the House of Levi is a 1573 painting by Italian painter Paolo Veronese and one of the largest canvases of the 16th century, measuring 555 x 1280 cm (18 x 42 feet). It is now in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice.

Veronese painted it for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, a Dominican friary, as a Last Supper, to replace an earlier work by Titian destroyed in the fire of 1571 and originally chose the title of 'Christ in the House of Levi'.

The painting led to an investigation by the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the painter was called to answer for irreverence and indecorum because the painting contained "buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs and other such scurrilities", as well as extravagant costumes and settings. Veronese was given three months to change the painting, but he simply changed the title instead to 'The Feast in the House of Levi', still an episode from the Gospels, but less doctrinally central, and one in which the Gospels specified the presence of "sinners" at the feast, thus solving the problem.