The Vision of Saint Helena

7:00 AM

Paolo Veronese, The Vision of Saint Helena, c.1580


What is this beauty that lays before mine eyes? 

Who is this fair maiden? 

They tell me her name is Helena--Saint Helena--and I'm not the least bit surprised. A lady of her beauty and opulence deserves a thousand sainthoods. 

Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, engrossed in a quest to find the lost Christian relics, sits upon her throne, plagued with visions of the True Cross. She rests her head so gingerly on her hand as a vision of the white whale of all Christian Relics floats across her consciousness.

Veronese's innovative lighting techniques and meticulous attention to detail provides a glimpse into Saint Helena's consciousness as if observed through a keyhole, as if one could simply reach out and grab the hem of her satin dress and wake her from her fantasies.

Oddly enough, Saint Helena lived almost 3,000 years ago, and her typical blue dress and a red cloak have undergone a bit of an upgrade here. Helena's 15th century attire, gilded crown and soft, graceful  disposition suggests a regality warrented to very few.

The style of Mannerism is delineated by the elongation of figures and use of unbalance in order to suggest sophistication and virtuousness. However, Veronese doesn't acquire elongation physically, rather: by modernizing Helena's wardrobe and heightening her social status, Veronese is able to achieve the sophistication, virtuousness and - essentially - the regality that Mannerism seeks to acknowledge.

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