Day 16: Verona art and architecture

To save Scott’s knees, we taxied to Basilica San Zeno.

San Zeno is a major basilica of Verona, constructed between 967 and 1398. Its fame rests partly on its Romanesque architecture and partly upon the tradition that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

I went to see the Mantegna Altarpiece. Only the upper paintings of the triptych are original. Napoleon took the work in1797 and the predellas, the lower panels, were never returned. One is in the Louvre and the other two elsewhere in France I think.

Andrea Mantegna was born around 1431 near Padova or Padua. He is one of the great innovators of early Renaissance. His early works are in Padua and most are lost, i.e. destroyed. His frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel in the church of the Eremitani were bombed by Allied forces in WWII. I hope when we go to Padova to see the one work which had been taken from the chapel and still remains mostly intact.

Around 1453, Mantegna married the daughter of Jacopo Bellini. Influences from the Bellinis are often seen in Mantegna’s work and vice versa. In 1460, Mantegna became court artist for the Marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga of Mantua. His name will come up again when I go to Mantua.

His altarpiece in San Zeno was likely the first Renaissance work in Verona and highly influential for subsequent artists in the region.

From there we walked along the Adige River towards Castelvecchio.

Castelvecchio Museum was a military building constructed in the Middle Ages by the Della Scala family, known as Scaligeri in Italian or Scaliger in English. It was likely on the site of a Roman fortress.

Napoleon stayed in the old castle when he was in the area. The Castelvecchio Bridge was blown up by retreating Germans in 1945 but rebuilt using bricks retrieved from the river.

In the 20th century, the building was refurbished by the Italian architect Carlo Scapa as an art museum. Scarpa’s work, started in the 1950s and continued well into the 60s, is considered one of his masterpieces. There is a book on the subject.

It has some small Mantegna works.

Some small Giovanni Bellini.

A number of Veronese including an interesting group of sketches.

Some Tintoretto

The building is not friendly for those with mobility challenges. There’s a lot of stairs and some bridges on upper levels that are open to the area below—far below.

The redesign has modern flourishes.

We found a quiet spot for lunch but fancy enough they served us two amuse bouche.

Ravioli and beef tartare sandwich

From lunch we walked past the Verona Arena. Starting in June, the arena hosts concert and operas but we’re here too early.

You can go inside when there are no events but it involved queues and we lacked sufficient interest.

Instead we did some shopping including a belated birthday gift for me.

But first some very good gelato. It’s been days since our last ones.

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