Judith and the family resemblance

19 Sep

Like father, like daughter.  This is Artemesia’s rendition of his father’s painting we saw a few days ago.

Your mission: compare and contrast.  Talk amongst yourselves.

Orazio Gentileshi, “Judith and Her Maidservant,” 1608-1609, Nasjonalgalleriat, Oslo, Norway

Artemesia Gentileshi, “Judith and Her Maidservant,” 1614, Oil on canvas, 114 x 93.5 cm, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

If that had been my dad, I would have been smacked for copying and not making my own effort.   But my dad was not a painter, and somebody said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – so Orazio should be very flattered.

  • Similarities:  Composition of Judith and maid, Judith facing front turning head to right, maid with back turned to viewer, head turned to right and head in basket on hip.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.   Oops.  Forgot the maid’s ginormous head wrap.  Check.
  • Differences:  Tighter perspective, different clothing (Judith in brown vs. red, maid in yellow vs. rust and blue), sword on shoulder vs. down to left side,  Judith’s hair is more elaborate, maid’s head wrap is more complete, Judith’s mouth is hanging open and Holofernes head is reversed.  And it is greener.

But what do the differences MEAN??

It means (a) Artemesia is a girl and pays more attention to clothing, and (b) she needed to paint something different.   She was 20 years old when this was painted, about a year past the rape trial, newly married to Pierantonio Stiattesi, and moved to his home in Florence.   Maybe she missed her father.   Maybe she thought no one would notice the similarities to a painting back in Rome.   Maybe in those days, the resemblance did not matter.

Whatever the reasons, as time has passed the fame of Artemesia’s version has eclipsed her father’s version.  Perhaps because of the notorious trial or perhaps her naturalistic style is more popular than Orazio’s idealized approach.   Or in the latter decades of the 20th century, maybe because of the feminist interest.

Or maybe she was just a good painter.

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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Glory


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