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Judith and the cross-dresser

30 Aug

Even though Judith is in a blue dress again, I really like this portrayal.  I’m not even sure why.

Guido Cagnacci, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1650, Oil on canvas, 103.5 x 136.5 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, Italy

This is the work of Guido Cagnacci, who started out painting devotional subjects, but moved to Venice under the name of Guico Baldo Canlassi da Bologna.  At the point, he became dedicated to private salon paintings of sensuous naked women.  In 1628, he tried to force a widowed noblewoman’s family to consent to marriage by eloping.  However, the plan failed – resulting in departure from his home in Rimini and long-lasting effects on his career.  Some contemporaries described him as eccentric, unreliable and of doubtful morality – enjoying the company of cross-dressing models (1).

Cross-dressing models?  Like RuPaul?  Hmmmm …. no, I don’t see that in this painting.  But then again … maybe the cross-dressing model is really good.

What I do see is a young woman who is literally and figuratively looking over her shoulder. Who is going through something horrific and seems desperate to make an escape.  Who is not exulting in her actions, but seems ambivalent: “I did it, it was terrifying, I know I needed to do it, but this part really sucks.”  All in a lovely Venetian-style blue dress.

(1) Vertova, Luisa (1993). “Guido Cagnacci. Rimini”. The Burlington Magazine (The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd.) 135 (1088: Nov.): p. 784

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Gory

 

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