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By Antoine du Rocher

VENICE, 25 JUNE 2009 - Just as the Internet sounded the death knell for the then rapidly expanding publishing market for interactive CD-ROM art titles some ten years ago, advances in 3D animation and special effects technology may signal the arrival of another medium by which mass audiences become acquainted and interact with large-scale museum masterworks. British filmmaker Peter Greenaway's digital The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) is the latest example of this new multimedia slight-of-hand. Currently on view at the Palladian Refectory on San Giorgio Maggiore Island during the Venice Biennale, the multimedia extravaganza attempts to place the viewer in the midst of the throng of wedding guests, architecture and blue skies that make up Veronese's spectacular composition.

Peter Greenaway in front of the facsimile version in Venice
Photo courtesy of Change Performing Arts

Greenaway's Venice installation is part of an artistic project in which he intends to "visit" - with contemporary sensibility and employing cutting-edge image technology - "Nine classic paintings" among Western art history's most renowned, from the Renaissance up to Picasso and Pollock. The British filmmaker, justly acclaimed for his sophisticated and aesthetic films, The Draughtman's Contract and A Zed & Two Noughts, launched his project with a vision of Rembrandt's The Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (2006) followed by Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper at the Refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie and at Palazzo Reale in Milan (2008).

The Venetian project was initiated in 2007 and underwritten by the prestigious Fondazione Giorgio Cini which had envisioned the celebrated painting by Paolo Veronese "coming back" to the Palladian Refectory in a facsimile version realized on a 1:1 scale at Adam Lowe's Factum Arte atelier. The original left for Paris in 1797 when Napoleon and his troops looted the Benedictine refectory, cut the painting in pieces to be reassembled later in the Louvre where it still hangs opposite the Gioconda (Mona Lisa) in the Salle des Etats, recently renovated by Peruvian architect Lorenzo Piqueras.

Paolo Veronese: The Wedding Feast at Cana, 1562 -63
Oil on canvas, H. 6.77 m; W. 9.94 m
In the 4.8 million euro ($6.1 million) refurbished Salle des Etats
Photo courtesy of Musée du Louvre

Now set in the original architectural context for which it had been conceived - the Palladian Refectory - Peter Greenaway's cinematic reproduction with its savvy interplay of images, lighting, music, voices and sounds seems to emerge directly from the high-tech replica of the painting and the walls of the Refectory. The 50-minute performance thus gives spectators the illusion of attending the marriage feast at Cana where Christ accomplished his first miracle, as narrated in the Gospel of John. During the projection Greenaway points out to the public the painting's scores of characters, from the servants preparing dishes, to the banquet guests and their imagined conversations and gossip, to the guests of honor - Jesus Christ and his mother Mary - seated at the center of the painting's architectural composition, in an on-going crescendo culminating in the narration's crucial moment: the miracle of water turning into wine.

The Venice multimedia remix of the Veronese masterpiece is the result of a collaboration between Peter Greenaway, the Dutch photographer and special effects wizard Reiner van Brummelen and the Milan-based production company Change Performing Arts.

The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese. A Vision by Peter Greenaway is open to the public every day on the hour from 11h.00 to 19h.00 (Thursday and Friday from 11h.00 to 21h.00) until 12 September 2009, with a summer break from 2 August through 24 August.

The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese: A Vision by Peter Greenaway
Cenacolo Palladiano
Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice, Italy
6 June - 2 August 2009
24 August 24 - 13 September 2009

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