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At Cana, wine transforms a wedding into a divine feast

"Les Noces de Cana", Véronèse, 1562/63 - Musée du Louvre, Paris | Noces de Cana | Sang du Christ, Nouveau Testament, Bible | De vin divin en vin Sacré | Vin et Peinture | Le Musée Virtuel du Vin

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588)  
Musée du Louvre, Paris






Veronese sets the scene with a mixture of profane and sacred elements. Religious symbols presaging the Passion of the Christ are placed beside 16th-century gold and silver tableware. The furniture, table, ewers, cups and crystal vases reveal the splendor of the feast. Every guest at the table has his own place setting, consisting of a napkin, forks and a trencher. The artist has missed no detail of the double reading; while a servant carves the meat – symbol of the mystical body of Christ – at the centre of the composition, boxes of quinces – symbols of marriage – are served to the guests as a dessert.

Veronese puts together a veritable mise en scene. The theme allows him to create a stage-like background setting for his characters. The upper half of the composition shows a white-clouded sky, while the lower part plays host to the crowd. The fluted Corinthian columns would have evoked the contemporary constructions of the architect Palladio. The painter has chosen precious pigments imported from the Orient by Venetian merchants: dark yellows, bright reds and lapis lazuli, used in large quantities for the sky and draperies. These colors play a major role in the interpretation of the painting because, by their contrasts, they help to distinguish individual characters (Source: Musée du Louvre).


Veronese represents a Biblical scene in the guise of a Venetian feast, mixing Biblical and contemporary figures. One can even recognize some of Europe’s greatest rulers: Francois I, King of France; the Ottoman Sultan Soliman II the Magnificent; Queen Mary of England. There are also various lords and ladies, whose opulent beauty sets them apart: Eleanor of Austria, Alphonse d’Avalos, the Cardinals Bernard Navagero and Charles de Lorraine Titian, Bassano and even Veronese himself are among the musicians, with Pierre l’Arétin as master of ceremonies.

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Bible text: New Testament, John 2:1-11

"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.’ And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him."


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