Art&Style

San Pantalon: the largest canvas in the world and other secrets

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
San Pantalon: the largest canvas in the world and other secrets — Veneto Secrets

The smallest parish in Venice, that of San Pantalon, houses the largest pictorial canvas in the world. One of the oldest churches in the city, mentioned for the first time in a script of Pope Alexander III in 1161, was remodeled several times both in architecture and interior decorations, until the end of the 1600s when the architect from Treviso Francesco Comin rotates the orientation by 90° giving it today’s appearance.

What strikes as soon as you enter, which clashes with the unfinished façade of exposed brick, is the wonderful painting on the ceiling of 443 square meters which at first glance might seem like a fresco, but which in reality is an immense single table composed of 44 canvases joined together.

San Pantalon: the largest canvas in the world and other secrets — Veneto Secrets

The author is the Venetian painter Gian Antonio Fumiani, a frequent visitor to the parish, who began the work at the not young age of 44. It took the artist 24 years, from 1680 to 1704, to complete this incredible masterpiece in which he gave the best of the great perspective painting experience that he had acquired in his previous works as a theatrical set designer.
The work tells of the death and assumption into heaven of Saint Pantaleone of Nicomedia in Bithynia, doctor and martyr between 305 and 310 AD, during the persecutions of Christians wanted by Diocletian, following accusations of magic and inexplicable healings.

San Pantalon: the largest canvas in the world and other secrets — Veneto Secrets

But the church holds at least two other secrets that are worth telling. The first concerns the story of the beautiful gilded wooden crucifix located above the central altar, dated between 1335 and 1345, which was looted along with other objects during the Second World War. It even seems that he had come into the possession of the Nazi hierarch Hermann Goering, a great lover of Italian art, and then passed into the hands of various private individuals until the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, thanks to a report, identified him in 2012 at an auction house in Cologne – it seems that the market value would be over 700,000 euros – which has therefore decided to return it to the Patriarch of Venice.

Another curiosity is the altarpiece of San Pantalon, which is located in the second chapel on the right, painted by Paolo Veronese in 1587 and which is therefore considered the last work of Paolo Veronese who died the following year due to pneumonia.

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