Veronese’s Mary Magdalen in London in 1849 and Italy in 1857
Simply seeing Veronese’s Feast in the House of Levi in the same gallery with Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin (CAT 109, fig. 5) at the Accademia in Venice 1857 would have given Melville a striking example of the opposing approaches these two great Venetian masters took to Biblical subjects in general. During his visit to the private collection of Samuel Rogers in London in 1849, young Melville would have seen a striking contrast in how these two painters depicted similar moments in the life of Mary Magdalene. In Titian's Noli me Tangere (CAT 109, fig. 2), Melville would have seen Magdalene reaching out impulsively to Christ as he tells her not to touch him. In Veronese's Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of our Saviour, he would have seen Magdalene as she does touch his feet in the process of anointing them. The catalog of Rogers’s collection in the 1844 edition of Hazlitt’s Criticisms of Art identified this painting as a study for “the great picture in the Durazzo Collection at Genoa, from which [it] differs in many respects” (no. 26). The painting in the Durazzo Collection at Genoa was Veronese's first version of The Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, painted for a refectory in Venice in 1560 (fig. 3). Melville would have seen a full-scale painting for which the canvas owned by Samuel Rogers was a study when he visited Turin in Genoa near the end of his travels in Italy in 1857.