Tag Archives: Baroque

Judith: Before and After


Antonio Gionima (1697–1732), “Judith Presenting Herself to Holofernes,” 1720s, Oil on canvas, 171.45 x 125.73 cm, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


Antonio Gionima (1697–1732), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1720s, Oil on canvas, 177×88 cm, reported in 1984 Antique market, Turin, Italy – photo in Federico Zeri Foundation, University of Bologna, Italy )

This before-and-after of Judith is the work of Antonio Gionima, a partner of the late-Baroque period who exemplified the grand classical style of 18th-century Bologna. His promising career was cut short by his death from tuberculosis at age thirty-five.

Many of Gionima’s surviving works illustrate Old Testament subjects in strongly expressive compositions, dramatic chiaroscuro, and the elaborate mixing of wash, white bodycolour and occasionally oil paint in his drawings. Some considered him to be the most exciting painter in Bologna in the decade before his death. But Gionima appears to have a marketing problem: most of his commissions were not for public sites but instead went to private collectors – and thus he was neglected by later critics.

Which might explain how I got this far in the blog without noticing his work.

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If you want to see a much more colorful image of “Judith Presenting Herself to Holofernes” (though much smaller), jump over to Artwork of the month: Judith (December 10, 2008) in the blog The Aesthetics of Composition in Abstract Painting. He must have a better camera than the museum. While you’re there, check out the other Judith’s residing in Minneapolis. She appears to be quite popular there.














Posted by on December 13, 2017 in No category


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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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Judith dries out

My advance planning for the V&A visit has revealed one disturbing fact: there is A LOT of Judith in storage.  Not that I am feeling persecuted (there is probably a LOT of David in storage as well) but just disappointed that the museum visit will not be All Judith All The Time.  So for the remaining posts about the V&A, they will have to be about works of art I will not see, at least on this visit.  And there ends my narcissistic rant … for the moment.

But I will especially miss this painting, the one I wrote about unkindly in “Judith is put to bed wet” (October 18, 2011).

Matteo Ponzoni, "Judith Holding the Head of Holofernes," c.1650, oil on canvas, 90.3 x 79.4 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Matteo Ponzoni, “Judith Holding the Head of Holofernes,” c.1650, oil on canvas, 90.3 x 79.4 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

It is possible that seeing this painting in the flesh would incline me to be more kind about the depiction of Judith — but I would not bet on that.  Judith’s slack jawed expression would not change, nor the beefy appearance of her forearm and the uncomfortable compression of her breasts.  Perhaps she would not appear to be bathed in perspiration and maybe the details of her gown and toilet would be more pronounced.  Perhaps.  But now I will never know.

Maybe that’s why she is in storage.

See you at the V&A!

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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Exploring


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Judith is tanked

Are these titles suggesting a theme … or is it just me?


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


Oh those Russians!  It appears they took a Scandinavian tankard and applied a Greek technique to produce this opulent vessel for drinking.  The technique is called “niello” — created by pressing and melting a black compound of silver, copper or lead sulphides into engraved lines on a silver surface to produce a dramatic contrast between the black decoration and shiny silver, creating intricate plant and flower patterns on metal.  In Moscow, the technique was influenced by Greek jewellers who arrived in the 1660s and brought the Turkish method to the Russian goldsmiths.

But enough about metalwork.  The important part is the subject of the decoration: a background of a Turkish-inspired carpet of tiny flowers and leaf tendrils in which sits engraved birds, and four Old Testament scenes from the Bible.  The selection of these scenes always fascinates me, trying to understand what the artist or client was trying to express with the themes that include Judith.  Sometimes it’s biblical victors (David, Joshua, etc.), sometimes it’s biblical heroines (Jael, Susannah, etc.), and sometimes it’s just … I dunno.  In this case it’s Judith and Holofernes (at the front), Samson and Delilah (on one side), the Temptation of Joseph (on the other side) and the Judgement of Solomon (on the lid).  So probably some virtues the drinker wished to extoll while he was slogging his ale — with the wisdom of Solomon being his last view when he closed the lid for the evening.

Or maybe his wife made him add the Judith part to make up for the weak-willed Samson?

See you at the V&A!

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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Exploring


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Judith hangs with Jael

Serial posting.  Why didn’t I think of that before?

Yesterday began with trying to unravel the mystery of an unidentified tapestry.  Which led to the history and geography of tapestries.  Which led to the connection to four other tapestries with Judith as the subject. Which today leads to the south of France … but not the sandy, sunny south.  The mountainous, snowy south.

In the heart of the Pays d’Asse is the ancient city of Senez, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.  The present Romanesque church dates 1176 but was nearly destroyed in the French Wars of Religion (1562–98).  It was rebuilt in 1750, to add an episcopal palace next to the cathedral – and after completion of the restoration Monseigneur de Ruffo Bonneval (bishop of Senez 1783-1784) presented eight tapestries in celebration.  All but one were Aubusson tapestries in wool and silk,  representing different biblical scenes from the Old Testament – among them Judith holding a sword in one hand (the head of Holofernes in the other) and Jael a hammer in hand.  What a pair!


Unknown artist, “Judith holding the head of Holofernes.” Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, Cathedral of Senez, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, FR



Unknown artist, “Jael holding a hammer.” Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, Cathedral of Senez, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, FR



… which leads me to wonder:  how many grooms had second thoughts about their weddings when they stood before these wall hangings in the cathedral?


(1) L’inventaire Général du Patrimoine Culturel, Les objets mobiliers  – les tentures: Les tapisseries des Flandres 


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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Distracted


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Judith unravels

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned.

This lovely tapestry was supposed to be in the collection of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France – but it is not there.  I am almost 100% sure it is not there because the France Ministry of Culture is meticulous about cataloging every work of art in collections of public and private museums of France in a central online database, Joconde – and this tapestry is not listed.

Judith (1600s) Flemish tapestry?

Unknown, “Judith holding the head of Holophernes,” 17th century, Flemish tapestry, ???; photo by Herve Lewandowski

Here are the pieces of the puzzle with which I have to work:

  • a tapestry
  • of Judith
  • in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille OR in Lille OR in France
  • in a French museum thus in the online collection of Joconde
  • in a museum that is not in France
  • photographed by Herve Lewandowski

And thus far – it’s all a dead end.  Unless I get up the nerve to contact the photographer.

If I can not locate the tapestry, at least I can figure out the style and possible date, perhaps? To satisfy my insatiable curiosity?  The pieces of the puzzle with which I have to work on that task:

  • columns laden with fruit and tulips
  • center title in the upper border “Fortitudo Judith” – and then something I can’t read which is probably the name of the artist.

A little about the history of tapestries:

One of the most expensive and time-consuming crafts, tapestry-making only truly flourished in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, at the hands of French and (later) Flemish weavers. This growth of tapestry art coincided with the era of Romanesque and Gothic art – both part of a religious revival, when architecture, sculpture and stained glass were also harnessed by the Church to illustrate Biblical stories to illiterate congregations.

The finest European tapestries are considered to have been made by the Gobelins Royal Factory in Paris, while major tapestry-making centres existed at ArrasTournaiBrusselsAubussonFellitin and in the Beauvais factory in Paris. (1)

Arras had been the center of activity, but after it was plundered by Louis XI in 1447,  tapestry makers fled to Flanders and created a new center of European woven textiles.  That would include the city of Lille, which identifies itself as “Flemish” in the geographical and historical sense.  The style of tapestries in Flanders went from “mille flour” in the 15th century to significant improvements in perspective and composition with a wide range of colors and highly ornate borders in the 16th century. The Flemish painter Bernard van Orley (1492-1541) was most well-known for combining late Gothic realism and Renaissance idealism with the art of the tapestry medium.

But this Judith does not resemble the borders created by Orley. Making comparisons across various tapestry designs, the fruity column design appears to  be the brain-child of either Michiel Coxie (1499–1592), Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), or Justus van Egmont (1601–1674).  All three men were primarily painters, who moved to Brussels and designed various tapestries in their spare time.  Wait a minute … that sickly pink color reminds me of Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) from Judith in Jeopardy.  So at least I am in the right time period.  And that will have to be enough … for now.

In the meantime, I did locate four other tapestries with Judith as the subject!!  Stay tuned tomorrow …

(1) Art Encyclopedia, Tapestry Art: Belgian Tapestries.  a must-read if you need a 101 on tapestries


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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Distracted


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Judith has a follower

It’s St. Valentines’s Day  – a retail holiday to make lots of people feel like lovers and others feel like losers.  So it seems appropriate to post today on a Judith that makes me feel a little lovelorn – a work of art that has no name and no home.

Judith (early 1500s) Follower of Massimo Stanzione

Follower of Massimo Stanzione, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” oil on canvas, 104 x 82 cm

Previously I have explained that much of my time on this blog is invested in searching images.  One of those searches uncovered this Judith on  I am telling you this because I can’t find one other blessed scrap of information about it anywhere. She seems to have been abandoned. Here are the few things I do know:

  • On October 16, 2011, I wrote about Massimo Stanzione’s “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” that is housed at MMA in “Judith in a clutch”
  • Stanzione was an Italian Baroque painter, mainly active in Naples, influenced by Caravaggio, Carracci and Vouet,
  • He worked alongside Artemisia Gentileschi during the time she was in Naples.
  • While most of his themes were religious, one of his well-known secular paintings is “Woman in Neapolitan Costume” – (c.1635) which in some ways resembles this Judith.

Massimo Stanzione (1586-1656, “Woman in Neapolitan Costume,” 1635, oil on canvas, 46.75 x 38.25 in, Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, USA

How and why a painting is determined to be the work of a “follower” is a mystery to me. It doesn’t rival the quality of Stanzione’s work but the skirt has a realistic texture, the red fabric of the bodice and turban are vibrant, the tassels are especially jaunty and she sports a lovely necklace.  Perhaps this created by someone in the workshop who was trained in the details of apparel but not-so-much the proportion or portraiture.  Still, I find it sad that the artist was left with no name of his/her own and that the work is not housed somewhere to be admired. If anyone knows where this ended up or how much it sold for at auction, I would love to know.  Or if it is lying around in your attic, I will volunteer to take it off your hands.  I can always use another follower – or another Valentine.

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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in Cacciatore


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