Why is this guy so hard to pin down? The last time I tried to positively identify one of his works, I chased my tail for days. Now I have three paintings in my lap and they all seem to have the same title. It is not really Preti’s fault. Maybe I will just blame him.
Sometimes called Il Cavalier Calabrese (the Knight of Calabria), Preti’s work represents late Baroque style that is characterized by “exaggerated lighting, intense emotions, release from restraint, and even a kind of artistic sensationalism.” Baroque art did not depict the life style of ordinary people, but “melodramatically reaffirmed the emotional depths of the Catholic faith and glorified both church and monarchy” in their power and influence (1). That is a lofty agenda. And Preti carried it out in numerous locations, concluding in Malta.
(Side note: Malta because – like Caravaggio – he was a Knight of Grace in the Order of St John but that is another long and fascinating story I will save for another time).
Preti painted the subject of Judith numerous times. First, in the tent with the headless body and then multiple times showing the head to the crowd in Bethulia – which is how he ended up in this section.
First, I submit the full crowd scene. (With many thanks to dbykowski, who seems to be the only person to ever capture this image.)
The city councilman on the far left seems very concerned about how Judith accomplished this. As if he does not believe she was capable and maybe found Holofernes’ head by the side of the road. No really, I lopped this sucker off his inebriated body myself.
Second, a side view of the crowd scene – compliments of le Ministère de la Culture du France.
In this version, Judith seems a little more detached – a little more pissed off. It is his head, and you can see by his expression that he was not happy to part with it. But take it or leave it. I need a hot toddy and an bath.
And finally, a full frontal view. Shared by Caravaggio.com in the section on German museums.
At this conjecture, Judith has had enough and equipped with the sword to make her point. Seriously – if you are going to doubt that I charmed my way in, got him stinking drunk and then held him by the hair while I whacked off his head, then maybe you would like a demonstration.
(1) Hunt, Martin, Rosenwein, and Smith. The Making of the West (third ed.). Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s. 2010, pp. 469
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Unbelievable. Un-be-LIEV-a-ble. I considered buying a book about Preti. And my book search gave me — John T. Spike, Mattia Preti: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings (English and Italian Edition) (Hardcover). For the Amazon price of (hold your breath) $1,249.99 for “Used – Very Good” and $3,489.75 for “Used – Like New.”
Oh wait … I forgot to add $3.99 for shipping.
I think I might drive to the library to see if I can borrow their copy.