The Wedding Feast at Cana

by cheri block

I turned back, once more, to view Veronese’s enormous painting entitled The Wedding Feast at Cana, created in 1563. Of all of the works I saw in a short 5-hour period at the Louvre—including the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory—this one was the most memorable.

As I turned back to snap a picture, I was struck by the image. What do you see?

The people in the room blend into the painting, don’t they? Veronese must have known this would happen. The message is clear: we are a part of this scene. Since I am not Christian, I took my own message, the overarching one that speaks from a small table in the center of the painting.

Below Christ, on a table is a small hourglass (about 5 inches high) and below the hourglass is a dog, chewing on a bone. If you don’t look carefully, you might  miss the hourglass, a humble time marker eclipsed by the enormity and pomp of people, the animals, the sunny afternoon, the clothing, and the drama of the religious symbols. You could miss the hourglass had Veronese not placed it  smack in the middle of this canvas that takes up the entire room.

You could miss the hourglass, symbol of time.

Above the hourglass is life; above life is afterlife.

Below the hourglass, a dog, symbolizing death, is chewing on his bone.

I left the room, deep in thought.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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14 Responses to The Wedding Feast at Cana

  1. I had to zoom twice on the picture to catch the hourglass. A ramatkable thing…and yes the crowd seems to be coming out of the painting.

  2. Fascinating–I wonder how many other people in that throng connected with Veronese the way you did.

  3. Cheri says:

    I’m glad you both enjoyed the post. And Tom, I doubt it. At the Louvre, most visitors are so overwhelmed with the size/volume of the place, they seem to be frenzied about missing something. We all miss much there just as with the Met Museum of Art in NYC.

    We recognized what was possible to see and consider in 5 hours, so went slowly. We also hired a guide, Andre. He helped tremendously.

    I told him he was the French Simon Schama!

    My next post will be on The Death of Marat by David.

    • Yes, actually I was going to say something cynical about how most of the people there are probably just passing through so they can tick off that they’ve been to Louvre, seen the ML and then they’re off to the nearest internet cafe to tell all their “friends” about it: “OMG. It’s so, like, smaller than I thought!!!”

  4. Are sure that is not “Murat” murdered in his bath tub by Charlotte Corday?

  5. Cheri says:

    Thanks for the correction. Tom, you are right and I have amended my comment.

  6. Yes of course it was Marat, how silly of me.

  7. I had never noticed the hour glass. Now that I do, the picture takes on a new meaning.

    Another way to look at it: Various figures in the painting are actually real contemporary persons. Charles V, for instance. And the painter, Veronese, himself.

    So, the picture, like all great art including writing, works at many levels. For them at the time, it might have been a subtle cartoon of their notables. For us today, it is a prod to contemplate time and death.

    (And wine, of course. Which reminds me….)

  8. jenny says:

    What you have written here is so smart and beautiful. I was telling my husband about this post this morning. Just beautiful.

    From time to time, there is a day with so much sunshine and pomp, that I am (even at this late date) unaware of the hourglass…and the dog.

  9. Roy Davis says:

    Hi Cheri:
    I was intrigued by the Wedding Feast at Cana because I searched in vain for the hourglass. I had to go through several websites to view the bottom portion of the painting. I found a pretty good version which I could enlarge but still found the hourglass teeny. However, I did notice that at a feast, and a wedding celebration at that, not a single person in all of that crowd is smiling. No wine, you say? Maybe they are not celebrating. Does it change once the wine arrives? On the upper left there is a solitary dog peeking through the balcony railing. Why did Veronese put man’s best friend above all those grumpy people? Does the dog not care about the wine? Is the canine perplexed by the grumps and wondering about those two glowing at the table? I’m sure he finds glowing a bit unusual. Does he know the other dogs in the painting? Is he envious of their freedom to be among the grumps? Or is he glad that he doesn’t have to put up with all those sourpusses? Am I being sacrilegious to notice such things? Maybe, but I’m just having fun. I must say after viewing the painting in a large format, it is quite an acheivement and must have been stunning in reality. I wonder what one would see, all alone, if one could study the real thing for an hour or two in solitary silence.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Roy,
      You can see it on the photo I used if you enlarge several times. The hourglass is sitting on a table, next to a piece of paper. Ahh…you found it on a clearer version. Yes.

      I, too, got a big kick out of the dog on the upper left hand corner of the picture and am not at all sure why Veronese put them in painting.

      As a skeptic myself (this will get me in trouble but what the hay), I doubt if the literal water to wine story is true, but I’d love to have those powers, myself. Just think…our 7000 gallon water tank could be 7000 gallons of Chalk Hill Chardonnay!

      Sacriligious? Why not? Everyone takes themselves WAY too seriously these days. Perhaps Veronese was pointing that out as well.

      I’m going to start calling you Socrates…More questions than answers…

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