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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Judith out and about: Bergamo

You may recall I began the description of this trip with the observation I made mistakes and there were surprises – but more “Unplanned Encounters” than “Disappointing Misses.” In the column marked “Disappointing Miss” with regards to Judith, I would have to place the side trip to Turin. BUT …

… the side trip to Bergamo was an “Unplanned Encounter” of immense proportions!! My original destination in Bergamo was Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in which two Judith’s reside.  Bergamo is a charming city, composed of the 16th century Città alta (Upper city) and the 19th-20th century Città bassa (Lower city). Santa Maria Maggiore is in the Upper City, reached by funicular or bus on a road that rings the outer walls — then by foot on the sharply sloping, twisting streets within. At the top of one such street is the church, which can be easily missed since it is not free-standing but appears to be in a row of dwellings.

Entrance to Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

Entrance to Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

Cherry picker in Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

Cherry picker before it was elevated in Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

The interior of the church is quite dim, and on the day of my visit, one-third of the interior was cordoned off to accommodate a “cherry-picker” that was used to perform maintenance. With the dimness and the recesses and the cherry-picker, it was only with the assistance of someone from the book shop that I was able to find the two artworks I was seeking. This search was assisted by a book of the artwork within the Basilica with descriptions and photographs — because in this case, a picture was truly worth a thousand words in an unfamiliar language.

The first artwork I sought was a painting by Gian Paolo Cavagna, located above the left choir stalls. There is no access to the stalls and the painting is displayed very high, such that the available angle for viewing is so awkward and dark that photographs were nearly impossible to obtain.  At least I now know where it is!

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Choir stalls of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

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Judith by Gian Paolo Cavagna, above left choir stall of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

 

The second work of art was a wooden inlay by Lorenzo Lotto. Although this inlay is displayed behind the front rail of the choir stalls – low to the ground and easy access for photographs, I found it is only on display on Sundays.

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Lorenzo Lotto, “Judith,” 1524–1535, inlaid wooden panel, choir of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy

That’s right: on weekdays the panel is flipped over the reveal this:

Flip side of Judith by Lorenzo Lotto

Flip side of Judith by Lorenzo Lotto

 

And you probably you guessed right again. I was not visiting the church on a Sunday. Which could have been counted as a “Disappointing Miss” except …

Without prior planning and by total coincidence, upon arrival in Bergamo I was greeted by posters announcing the traveling exhibit of Palma il Vecchio at the Academia Carrera.  And can you imagine my elation to discover on the exhibit website that it contained his portrait of Judith!!?  The one who J. Allyn Rosser declared was “the only Judith I’ve ever seen who could 
single-handedly have hacked through a man’s neck 
is that of Jacopo Palma the Elder—
now there’s a woman with some heft!”  No photography allowed but it was a spectacular opportunity to experience a detailed exhibit of his work — and to stand before one of the most beautiful depictions of my namesake for as long as I liked.  Definitely an “Unplanned Encounter” of immense proportions!!

Judith (1525) il Vecchio

Palma il Vecchio, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1525-28, Oil on wood, 90 x 71cm, Uffizi, Florence, Italy

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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Turin, or is it Torino?

Remember that House of Savoy? By a total coincidence, I left one capital of the House of Savoy in Chambery, France (1295 – 1563) to travel to another capital of the House of Savoy in Turin, Italy (1563 – 1946).  Both cities are sites of a Residence of the House of Savoy — neither of which I had time to visit owing to the Judith‘s museums in both cities.

Also I neglected to determine:  the city is known as Turin if you are French, it is Torino if you are Italian, but if you are simply a bumbling American what is it called?

However, I made that disastrous mistake known as an assumption. Because you know what they say “when you assume” … And sadly whoever they are … are correct. So at this point you can guess that I assumed a painting would be on display when it was in reality <cringe> “in storage.” And you would be correct.

How could I make such a mistake? The mesmerizing depiction of Judith in the Orientalism style that is housed in the GAM is the work of Carlo Bonatto Minella, one of the favorite artistic sons of Turin. The GAM is one of the smaller museums in Turin, so I assumed that the Minella is one of their most valued paintings and that they would always have it on display — proud of the city’s son and all that. Kind of like the Louvre, and DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, who they would NEVER just put <cringe> “in storage.” Therefore, based on my assumption, I made two additional mistakes: I did not email the GAM in advance about the display of Minella’s Judith and I did add a special side trip to Turin just to see one painting.

And at this point you can guess that I made that special side trip to see just one painting that ended up being <cringe> “in storage.”

Of course based on that assumption, I walked the 8 blocks from the train station (Google maps added 4 blocks I did not need to walk) and purchased the museum entry before I asked in which room the Minella was displayed, which led to the fateful words <cringe>“in storage.” At that moment, rather than falling on the floor in a heap of tears I chose my stunned face while I processed what had just happened. Then I offered to fall on the floor in a heap of tears if that was the key to getting <cringe> “in storage” to see Minella’s Judith. However, no one budged at the prospect of an unhinged woman acting like a toddler. Perhaps they had previously seen something similar and were immune.

The bad news is I did not see the exotic painting of Judith by Carlo Bonatto Minella. The good news is the GMAC is actually a lovely small gallery of contemporary art AND they had a special exhibit of Amedeo Modigliani. I knew little of Modigliani but now I know much more about his short life (1884-1920) and how women in his life infused his unique style.

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Maybe if he had lived longer, he would have eventually painted a Judith.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Grenoble and Chambery

After doing a load of laundry and replenishing my toiletries back in the USA, it was time to leave again — this time to on my own (mostly).  With only the goal to start in Grenoble and end in Budapest, I drew a line that took me by as many artworks of Judith as I could find in my database.

Learning from my earlier experiences in England, I did my homework. I mean, I REALLY did my homework –- checking hours and locations, printing maps, plotting public transportation, emailing museums with inquiries about what was on display and about exact locations within their galleries, compiling a print-out of the images and their artists so I could simply point when language failed me. I could not afford to waste time or opportunity!

The fascinating outcome of this art-quest? Despite precise advance planning, I still made mistakes and there were still surprises – but more unplanned encounters than disappointing misses. And so the story begins in France … with a failure.

The first city on the trip was Grenoble – home to the Musée de Grenoble that supposedly owned a Judith by Ambrosius Benson and another by Pietro della Vecchia (aka Pietro Muttoni). Since I was going to be in Grenoble for a few days no-matter-what, I did not write to the museum in advance. Good thing I was there anyway, because NEITHER painting was on display in the museum. In fact, Ambrosius Benson’s Judith was <cringe> “in storage” but they had never heard of a Judith by Pietro Muttoni.

Wah. “In storage” has become two of the most cringe=worthy words to hear when museum-hopping.

In lieu of a Judith beheading Holofernes, here is me (my left foot, actually) in a plastic bubble hanging above the Isère river on the way to the Bastille …

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“Les Bulles” (Bubbles) connecting Grenoble to the summit of La Bastille

 

The next day, finally success!! On a side trip to Chambery, the former seat of the Savoy dynasty, I found the Judith I expected. A terracotta statue of Judith by Francesco Ladatte — looking rather morose about her murderous deed.

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Francesco Ladatte, “Judith resting on the head of Holofernes,” 1739, terracotta, 83 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambery, France

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I could not manage to look as sad as Judith because I was so happy to find her!

Along the way, I learned a little about the House of Savoy (not merely a hotel in London).  The name comes from the historical and cultural region there extends from the western Alps of France into northwestern Italy, and it dates from 1003 until 1946.  The condensed version is: along the way, the House of Savoy acquired a lot of land and a lot of artwork. Very, very ornate artwork.

And just for good measure, I snapped a picture of Jael by Giordano that was also part of the exhibit. At least it was not a painting of Salome.

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Luca Giordano (1634-1705), Jael and Sisera, Oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambery, France

 

As an added bonus in Chambery, I visited the Elephant Fountain — which owing to good fortune, had just been returned from refurbishment TWO DAYS prior to my visit. If you can read French or have an excellent translator, here is a description of their return the Chambery.  Vive les Elephants!

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Fontaine des Éléphants (“Elephants Fountain”) – the most famous landmark in Chambéry

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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Onward to the main destination:  Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the hospitality of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.  Or as one of the locals told us, the experience of Clowns and Gowns.

One of the most delightful experiences in this trip was the opportunity to view a painted panel of Judith acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (discussed February 28, 2015 here). The Trust attempts to collect not only items belonging to Shakespeare himself, but items that are representative of the time period and place in which he lived. The panel is currently in storage; however, I had “connections” shall we say – and part of our tour was the opportunity to view items not displayed to the public. It was a THRILL to have the archivist unwrap the panel for me and talk about the significance of this artwork in Shakespeare’s time. She hypothesized it was probably part of a wardrobe or chest, meant to be a reminder of feminine virtues.

Stratford April 2015

Yes, as my children remind me on a regular basis: I am such a nerd.

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Unknown artist, “Judith beheading Holofernes,” c. 1575, oil on panel, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

Shakespeare is also connected to my heroine through his own daughter, Judith (discussed June 27, 2012 here).  The second of his daughters and twin to his son Hamlet (who died at age 12), Judith was possibly involved in a  scandal — according to the docent of Hall’s Croft who gave me the TMZ version of events.   Hall’s Croft is named after the elder sister, Susanna, who was married to Dr. John Croft.  Judith was married to a prominent and prosperous innkeeper, Thomas Quiney, but he apparently had difficulty keeping his prominence within the marriage and ended up being punished by the church for his philandering. There is speculation that Shakespeare altered his will to severely limit Judith’s inheritance in order to keep it out of Quiney’s hands. However, Susanna did not escape the taint of scandal when she was accused of adultery and having a venereal disease (apparently false).  At this late date, it can’t be determined whether there was truth to the rumors or whether repetition of the stories has made it seem like fact – but it adds a little spice to the “good old days” in Stratford-upon-Avon!

Illustration to 'Judith Shakespeare' 1883 Edwin Austin Abbey 1852-1911 Presented by a group of admirers through John Singer Sargent 1924 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03992

Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911), Illustration to ‘Judith Shakespeare’ 1883, Ink on paper, 305 x 419 mm, Tate Britain: Prints and Drawings Rooms, London, England, UK

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Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911), Illustration to ‘Judith Shakespeare’ 1883, Ink on paper, Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-03347 (47)

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: London

A year isn’t so long, considering most of this artwork has been around for centuries.  So now begins the saga of my adventures with Judith last year.

Through exceedingly good fortune, I had two opportunities to travel to Europe in April and June of 2015.  The first trip was a reunion of alumni from my alma mater who had participated in a Shakespeare in England educational program — returning to Stratford-upon-Avon for the celebration of the program’s 50th anniversary. The trip originated in London with a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a long list of articles to see.  My private little scavenger hunt among the numerous Judith’s to share within the V&A  – from life-sized to the size of a finger nail.

But be warned: these are also my own private little photographs — which means they pretty much suck.

First stop: the plaster cast of Donatello’s victorious Judith that stands in the Piazza del Vecchio of Florence. I did see the original — but that was before I began following Judith obsessively. My only complaint with the cast in the V&A is that they placed Judith to the side of the exhibit hall, not in a prominent position of honor like <sniff> David. At least there was no plaster cast of that smarmy Salome.

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Oronzio Lelli (maker), Judith and Holofernes, 1893 (cast), plaster cast from Donatello’s bronze sculpture (ca. 1455) , 540.3 x 93 x 103 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

 

Unfortunately after seeing Judith, we were so enthralled by our tour guide that I lost track of time. Thinking I had an hour to spare, I was horrified to hear the museum staff announce thirty minutes until closing! So the rest of my Judith’s were gathered in a rush. Thus a blurry photo of the Russian tankard …

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Tankard from Scandinavia and Russia, 1680-1699, Silver, gilt, nielloed and engraved, 18.2 x 20.2 x 16 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a mad dash to the minatures where there is a statuette and three small carvings: etching, intarsa and cameo.

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Unknown artist, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” ca. 1550, Carved marble statuette, 48 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

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Jan Bellekin (ca. 1636-1665), “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” ca. 1600-1625, Mother-of-pearl engraved relief, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

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Unknown artist, “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” ca. 1500, Intaglio banded agate, 4.3 x 3.3 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

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unknown French, “Judith” cameo, ca. 1530-1550, Shell with isinglass (fish glue) backing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

 

And a final gallop to the Walpole Chest – which is more beautiful in person than in photos. I was quite honored to find Judith front-and-center on the right cabinet door.

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Horace Walpole, et al., The Walpole Cabinet, 1743, Padouk veneered onto a pine carcase and set with carved ivory plaques, figures and mounts, 152.4 x 91.5 x 21.6 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

 

By this time I was getting dirty looks from the guards and had to catch up with my group, so I breathlessly departed the museum. All-in-all I consider the visit a wonderful success.

My important learnings for the day:

  • It takes more time to find items in the galleries than you expect, even with preparation.
  • Museum staff are helpful at the main desk but don’t expect the guards to be knowledgeable.
  • Capturing images of items behind glass is damn hard, so my hat is off to all the professional photographers and successful amateurs.
  • I need a tripod to stop my hand from shaking the camera!!!
  • I need more time in general, just to catch my breath.

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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Bloomington

Oh my, where has the time gone? I am so far behind — so many Judith’s to discuss and so disorganized. But I must start somewhere so, this appears to be the spot.

In the center of the picturesque campus of Indiana University is the Art Museum. It is located on the Fine Arts Square, next to the centerpiece Showalter Fountain that depicts Venus being born from a clam shell amidst frolicking dolphins.  The Museum’s collection includes more than 45,000 works organized into nine curatorial areas, allowing visitors to take an extraordinary global journey through three floors in I. M. Pei’s iconic triangular building.  And almost immediately inside the first gallery is “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” by Matteo di Giovanni. (discussed in “Judith begins modeling,” January 9, 2012)

Judith (1490-1495) Matteo di Giovanni

Matteo di Giovanni, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1490-95, Tempera on panel, 55.9 x 46 cm, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

It is actually larger than I imaged and prominently displayed at the gallery entrance.  Consequently, I was quite proud of our heroine.

And little further in is Antiveduto Grammatica’s “Judith with the Head of Holofernes.” (discussed  in “Judith gives directions,” November 7, 2011).  Not quite as impressive but much larger and worth a trip to the IU campus if you crave a Baroque Judith.

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Antiveduto Grammatica, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1620–25, Oil on canvas, 120 x 93 cm, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2016 in Story

 

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Judith in the Attic

Art Dealer Says Painting Found in French Attic Is a Caravaggio

 

One-hundred thirty-six million dollars.

Judith (1600-10) Caravagio

Michelangelo Merisi detto Caravaggio (1573-1610), “Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1600-10, oil on canvas,  144 x 175 cm, Eric Turquin Expertise, Paris, France

 

Oddly, this looks a lot like a painting of Judith discussed July 30, 2011 in “Judith and the Not-So-Big-One” – and I was unable to locate it in Milan where it is owned by a bank.

Judith (1607) Caravaggio

Caravaggio or Finson, “Judith With The Head Of Holofernes,” 1607, Oil on canvas, 140 x 160 cm, Collezione Banca Commerciale Italiana, Naples, Italy

 

And oddly, the source of this painting is up for debate.  Perhaps this is the copy and the one in the attic is the original?  Or this is the original and the one in the attic is the copy?

Either way, I doubt that I will be spending $136 million. Or even half that for a copy.

I am merely happy that Judith still makes headlines.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Gory

 

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