Judith poses right and left

21 Oct

Sirani:  Judith, please turn to the right.

Judith:  (after sitting in that pose for 3 hours)  Begging your pardon, but my neck is a little stiff.

Sirani:  If you must move, then turn to the left.  But first, change to the red chemise.  I think you dropped blood on the blue one when the head was still fresh.

Elisabetta Sirani, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1610, oil on canvas, 129.5 x 91.7 cm, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Elisabetta Sirani, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes”

These lovely bookend paintings are the product of Elisabetta Sirani – another Daddy’s Girl.

But in her circumstances, Daddy’s Girl was the only way to become an artist.   Her father’ illness required her to become an independent painter at the age of 19 and to manage his workshop to support her family.   Her father not only influenced Elisabetta to paint quickly, he also discouraged suitors to keep the money-maker unmarried.   Who knows if she enjoyed the opportunity to paint or if the pressure to perform was simply a job.

Due to the pace at which she worked, local artists accused Elisabetta of having an assistant in order to complete oil paintings.  To prove her skills, she invited European artists and the public to observe her methods at a work-in-progress.  Many of her larger scale and heavy-themed works were painted publicly and in front of large (and adoring) crowds of on-lookers.   Elisabetta also opened a studio for women artists, a completely new idea for its time.

By the time she was 27, Elisabetta had produced over 200 paintings, drawings, and etchings – but the stress of that output caused perforated ulcers that ultimately lead to her early death.

No wonder Judith looks so sad.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Glory


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