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Paolo Veronese and the Petrobelli Altarpiece

Around 1563, the cousins Girolamo and Antonio Petrobelli commissioned a huge altarpiece for the church of San Francesco in the small town of Lendinara, near Venice. They turned to Paolo Veronese, a celebrated painter with strong ties to the region. The cousins hoped that the spectacular work would seal their status as one of the leading families in the town. Set above the altar in their burial chapel, Veronese’s painting shows the two men protected by their name saints. The cousins are privileged to witness a miraculous apparition, a foretaste of the future: the archangel Saint Michael, who will weigh the souls of the dead at the Last Judgment. Above, we see the dead Christ, who according to Christian tradition died to redeem mankind. Veronese offered his patrons a compellingly realistic depiction of a visionary scene, and captured the hope of the faithful Christian for salvation.

In the late 18th century, the church of San Francesco was demolished, and the Petrobelli altarpiece sold. An art dealer, seeking to maximize his profit, divided up the painting into four pieces. Their history was quickly forgotten, and the fragments eventually came to rest in public collections in England, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. Close examination of the fragments, years of study, and careful restoration were needed to reconstruct the altarpiece’s original form. In 2009, an exhibition will temporarily reunite the fragments for the first time in over two hundred years.

Explore the Petrobelli altarpiece, one of the most enigmatic works by Paolo Veronese. Discover its fascinating and complex history, learn how it was created, and witness its restoration.

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Altarpiece History

This first section outlines the history of the Petrobelli Altarpiece: the commission, the fragmentation, the restoration, and the various attempts since 1930 to reconstruct the altarpiece on paper. Visit this section

Iconographic Analysis

The painting’s subject matter stems from its function as an altarpiece, as well as from its original location in the Petrobelli family burial chapel. In the lower part of the work, Saints Anthony, Jerome and Michael protect and guide the donors. Above, set against a cloud, is an otherworldly vision of the dead Christ supported by angels. For Christians, Christ died to... Visit this section

Process and Drawing

In Italian, the term “Disegno” means both “drawing”, and “design.” These two concepts are closely linked in the practice of an artist like Paolo Veronese. Drawing in various forms was of the utmost practical and conceptual importance in his oeuvre, and the running of his workshop. Visit this section

Artist Biography

Paolo Veronese was undeniably one of the artists of the Venetian school who most deeply influenced the Italian Renaissance along with Titian (1485-1576) and Tintoretto (1518-1594). His altarpieces, frescoes, portraits and majestic theatrical compositions attest to an unequalled talent for colour, light effects and illusionism... Visit this section


This media section brings together videos about the Petrobelli altarpiece. Explore this fascinating work from various angles. Visit this section


The glossary section defines the technical terms used in the site Paolo Veronese and the Petrobelli Altarpiece. Many of the terms are explained in reference to the working methods used by Veronese and his workshop.Visit this section