Object Image

Happy Union

This is one of a series of four paintings by Veronese that concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear. The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the pictures were intended for a ceiling or a series of ceilings.

A couple are united at the hands of a nude woman assisted by a boy - possibly Venus and Cupid, although they lack traits that would identify them securely. The union between the couple is marked by a laurel wreath signifying their virtue and an olive branch symbolising peace. The gold chain held by the boy probably refers to marriage, while the dog is a symbol of fidelity. The woman sitting on the stone globe and cornucopia may instead represent Fortune, who rewards fidelity with peace (the olive branch) and plenty (the cornucopia).

These four paintings by Veronese concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear and have been much debated. The titles are not original and were given to the paintings in 1727. The scenes are not necessarily meant to go in any particular order.

The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the paintings were intended for a ceiling or a series of ceilings. The lower parts of the compositions seem to have been cut, and in several cases the feet of the figures are not visible. These features are disconcerting when the pictures are hung on a wall. The composition of each painting forms a strong diagonal, which would help relate the paintings to each other on a ceiling. We do not know who commissioned them, but it may have been a wealthy patron in Venice or one of the Holy Roman Emperors.

Credit: Bought, 1891

c. 1575
Oil on canvas
187.4 x 186.7cm
NG1326
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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