A THOUSAND WORDS
The Feast in the House of Levi
by Paolo Caliari (Veronese)
This 1573 painting is a whopper. For starts, it measures nearly fifty feet long by eighteen high. It is as if the curtain has gone up on a mighty operatic staging of the text from Luke 5:29, "And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them." Three huge arches like a Palladian theater frame the action, and what action it is. There are nearly fifty figures, among them turbaned Turks, African servants, a man with a nosebleed, well-heeled Venetians in colorful silks, German mercenaries, a little girl, a jester, a . . .
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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