Wedding at Cana: Monster or No?

 Digital Wedding at Cana

Can — and should — technology right a historical wrong? That’s a question Italians have been asking since a facsimile of Veronese’s 16th-century “Wedding at Cana” was installed on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore a few weeks ago.

At the heart of the debate is the digital re-creation of this vast 1563 painting, which Napoleon’s forces removed from the refectory in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore 210 years ago and took back to France as war booty.

The facsimile, by the Madrid enterprise Factum Arte, is a stunningly accurate replica of the 732-square-foot canvas. Details are reproduced down to the most minute topography, including the raised seams rejoining the panels that Napoleon’s troops cut the painting into when they transported it to France in 1797. (The original hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.)

Writing in the newspaper Corriere della Serra, the critic Pierluigi Panza described the copy as the “third miracle at Cana” — the first being the water that Jesus turned into wine in the Bible story, the second being the original painting, considered a masterpiece of 16th-century art.

But for some, Factum Arte has created a Frankenstein monster.

While a copy may be a useful teaching tool, Cesare De Michelis, a professor of literature at the University of Padua, wrote in the newspaper Sole 24 Ore, it can be “devastating and ‘immoral’ if it claims to substitute the original, just like cloning human life.”

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Wedding at Cana

VENICE — You can love it or hate it. You can dismiss it as mediocre art, Disneyfied kitsch or a flamboyant denigration of site-specific video installation.

If you’re in town for the Venice Biennale, don’t miss the marriage of High Renaissance painting and advanced technology that is “The Wedding at Cana,” by the British filmmaker Peter Greenaway. If nothing else, it is possibly the best unmanned art history lecture you’ll ever experience.

Subtitled “A Vision by Peter Greenaway,” this 50-minute digital extravaganza of light, sound, theatrical illusion and formal dissection is being projected onto and around a full-scale replica of “The Wedding at Cana,” Paolo Veronese’s immense and revered landmark of Western painting.

The replica is a wonder of digital reproduction itself. It covers the great rear wall of the Benedictine refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, exactly where the original hung from 1562, when Veronese finished it, until 1797. That’s when Napoleon had it taken down, cut up and carted back to Paris as war booty. It was sent to the Louvre, where its mastery of light and color entranced French painters and influenced the development of Impressionism.

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