Tag Archives: Italian

Judith makes a mess

Vincenzo Damini (1600s – 1749), “Judith,” 1720s, oil on canvas, 149.9 x 111.1 cm, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL

Compared to other paintings of this period, Damini’s style is a little … chaotic. A lot of fabric swaths, a hand here, an arm there. It took me a minute to figure out which limbs belong to who.

But I do admire the lovely contrast of the teal blue with the crimson red – triangulated on the maid’s shawl, the delicate rose on Judith’s bosom, and the gushing wound on stump of Holofernes’ neck.

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Posted by on July 6, 2020 in No category


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Judith loses count

This is quite a find among the “Dangerous Women.” A Judith by Artemisia Gentileschi that I have never seen!

Unless it is actually painted by someone else – like Louis (Ludovico) Finson? Or is it the trap of conducting research on the internet without a degree in art history?

Attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c. 1615–20, oil on canvas, 100 x 85 cm, exhibited in “Dangerous Women” (June 17 – July 3, 2020) by Robilant+Voena, London, ENG

From the catalog:

… Showing Judith gesturing to the severed head as her maidservant looks on, the present painting, which seems to have been somewhat reduced from its original dimensions, has been attributed by Claudio Strinati to Artemisia Gentileschi, the most celebrated female artist of the seventeenth century and herself one of the great heroines of feminist art history.

Artemisia was born in Rome, the only daughter of the artist Orazio Gentileschi, under whom she trained. At the age of seventeen she was raped by Agostino Tassi, a family friend and Orazio’s artistic collaborator. During the infamous trial that followed, Artemisia testified and was tortured. After the trial she married and moved to Florence, and it is to this period that Strinati has dated the work, noting that the distinctive features of Judith, shown in profile, correlate well with other works from this period in which Artemisia cast herself in the role of the female protagonist. Indeed, Artemisia seems to have used her own image frequently in works she produced in Florence … Here, the choice of representing herself as a virtuous heroine who has triumphed over an oppressor might be underscored by Strinati’s suggestion that the head of Holofernes is a portrait of Agostino Tassi.

Aha!!  A sensationalized story worthy of more research!!

And then I found this –

Circle of Ludovico Finson (c. 1580–1617), “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” oil on canvas, 67 x 51 cm.

I realize this is a really bad image. I realize this could easily be a copy of Gentileschi’s original work. I also realize someone somewhere in the art world could have been mistaken. And I realize Claudio Strinati (who attributed the former artwork to Gentileschi) is considered a preeminent expert in painting and sculpture of the Renaissance and 17th century art. Compared to me, an amateur internet sleuth.

But the weird part …

Louis Finson was ALSO involved in the confusion about the painting of Judith found in a Toulouse attic – eventually authenticated as a long-lost (insert trumpets here) Caravaggio.

What is it about Finson that puts him in position to be confused with more well-known artists? Is anyone sensing a conspiracy here?

And has this pandemic gone on too long?

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Posted by on June 28, 2020 in No category


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Judith … as long as I’m on the subject

More Saraceni for auction.

“The present painting originated in the workshop of Carlo Saraceni, and is based on the Judith and Holofernes (Madrid, private collection) dating to the first decade of the 17th century, rediscovered by Gianni Papi … The popularity of this composition, a typical and appealing example of Roman painting during the first decades of the 17th century, is supported by the existence of two additional versions, one in the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona, the other at the Gemäldegalerie Dresden.”  Lot No. 286, Palais Dorotheum

Workshop of Carlo Saraceni (1579–1620), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” oil on panel, 62.5 x 50 cm, Lot No. 286 auctioned April 21, 2015 by Palais Dorotheum, Vienna, AT

After Carlo Saraceni (1579–1620), “Judith and her Servant with the Head of Holofernes,” oil on copper, 36 x 28 cm, Lot No. 5 auctioned March 25, 2015 by Tajan, Paris, FR


And what more can I say about this Saraceni? It looks entirely different from the previous depictions of Judith, which displayed highly dramatic lighting. These remind me of Fede Galizia, with her rich attention to fabric and jewels – discussed here and here. Which is why the attribution says “Workshop of …” and “After …” Some things just make sense.

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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in No category


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Judith has been here before

Yes, my pets. We have been here before.

According to the catalog from the exhibitor, “Saraceni painted the popular subject of Judith with the Head of Holofernes twice in his career, in two different compositions; both exist in numerous versions by the artist and his workshop.” The numerous versions would explain why I keep finding them in various locations.

The provenance of this specific painting is:

  • Sotheby’s, London, 31 October 1979, lot 21
  • Ruggero Poletti, Lugano
  • Private collection

Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c. 1610-18, oil on canvas, 92×76.5 cm, exhibited in “Dangerous Women” (June 17 – July 3, 2020) by Robilant+Voena, London, ENG

In Judith as Film Noir, I covered four versions. Due to the addition of the red curtain in the upper right corner, this is obviously the version found on and And it has been auctioned several times since 1979.

And I will repeat the same question I ask every time: Why does the maid have THE BAG IN HER TEETH??

Carlo Saraceni, “Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” c.1615-1620, Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 42.5 in, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA


Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), “Judith Presenting the Head of Holofernes,” 1610-1615, oil on canvas, 90 x 79 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


Exhibited in “Alberto Longhi – from Giotto to Caravaggio” (Mar 27, 2015) at the Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris


Attributed to Saraceni, found on both and


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Posted by on June 25, 2020 in No category


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Judith by Père et Fils

It isn’t often that Judith is shared by two generations. First, there was the illustrious Gentileschi family – father Orazio and daughter Artemisia. And today we have the Vaccaro family – father Andrea and son Nicola.

Andrea Vaccaro (1604-1670) was one of the most successful painters in Naples at the time the city was ruled by Spain. Like his contemporaries, his work is heavily influenced by Caravaggio but he also incorporated artistic developments over the years he was active. Judith reflects the early part of his career when his tenebrism was most dramatic – rather harsh and less illuminated. Yet, the elegance of his subjects shines through in the detail of our heroine’s parted lips to her white-knuckled grasp of Holofernes’ hair. The red sash that centers the composition is particularly enchanting – even as it mirrors the crimson blood of her victim’s severed neck.

Andrea Vaccaro (1604-1670), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c. 1620, oil on canvas, 127.5 x 101 cm, exhibited in “Dangerous Women” (June 17 – July 3, 2020) by Robilant+Voena, London, ENG

Looking across the works of Andrea, it appears he specializes in “The Heavenly Gaze.”

In contrast, the former Judith appears delicate next to portrayals by the son, Nicola Vaccaro (1640-1709). I stumbled across Nicola when I wrote Judith shakes her Pom-Poms and Judith, Warrior Princess. The two works evidence a slight shift style of the son, moving from subtle to outright drama with The Heavenly Gaze replaced by The Withering Glare.


Nicola Vaccaro , “Judith and Holofernes,” c.1680,198 x 254 cm, auctioned by Blanchet 11/18/2009 (Lot 38).

Nicola Vaccaro, “Judith,” c. 1685-1695, Oil on canvas, 85 x 73 cm, auctioned by Christie’s 12/6/2001 (Lot 320)


Even Nicola’s angels look kinda pissed off. Is it too early to discuss anger issues?

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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in No category


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Judith has her hands full

It was not that long ago that I visited Fede Galizia’s more famous Judith with the head of Holofernes.And while the version pictured here is lovely – especially her braided and beaded coiffure – it does not have the details that are present in the Ringling Museum’s painting.

Judith () Fede Galizia

Fede Galizia (1578-1630), Judith with the Head of Holofernes, oil on canvas 82.3 x 66.6 cm, auctioned by Christie’s Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, Lot 251, May 1, 2019, New York, NY. USA

Plus, it does have an awkward aspect. Judith must have unusually strong hands for a woman in order to simultaneously hold Holofernes’ very large, hairy head and the massive fauchon. Or be oblivious to the consequences of letting that sword fall … again.


Posted by on July 30, 2019 in No category


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Judith prays for strength

At least, that is what I imagine she is asking for in this dramatic  portrayal of the moment before she decapitates Holofernes. He lies drunkenly on the bed, half awake and half unconscious – prophetically exposing the back of his neck to the viewer. Meanwhile the maid is keeping watch, holding the flap of the tent closed to the view of the rest of the Assyrian camp.

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Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682–1754), “Judith and Holofernes”, oil on canvas, 42.0 x 31.3 cm, Private collection

And then there is Judith, young and afraid. She looks heavenward, presumably seeking strength for the deed she must commit. Physical strength to wield the faucon and emotional strength to brutally murder another human being.

Piazzetta has once again captured the feeling of the moment. Previously, we have seen Piazzetta depict Judith reaching for the sword, Judith staring down her victim with the sword drawn, and Judith with sword raised. I surmise we are somewhere between reaching for the sword and staring down the victim. A point at which she has time to consider her action and her conflicting emotions about such a grisly and dangerous endeavor.

And time to breath a quick prayer.

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Posted by on July 29, 2019 in No category


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Judith in a cramped space

Is it me, or is Holofernes’ head disproportionally large?

Pietro della Vecchia (Pietro Muttoni)

Pietro della Vecchia (Pietro Muttoni)(1603/5-1678), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c. 1635-50, oil on canvas, 73.03 x 125.73 cm, Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minneapolis, MN, US

Perhaps we should compare the circumference to that of two other paintings of Judith by della Vecchia, one earlier and one later in time.

The comparisons also reveal the changing style of Pietro della Vecchia across his lifetime.  Della Vecchia was initially influenced by the artists of his native Venice: Titian and Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Strozzi, Giorgione, also Saraceni and Leclerc (his presumed masters). After 1650, his works evolved into macabre themes with spectral light and lack of space that characterized Venetian painting of the 17th century. Although the date on this painting is a range from 1635 to 1650, the composition does reflect the grotesque theme of decapitation with dramatic lighting and crowded space that were typical to his later work.

Especially cramped space when you consider the size of Holofernes’ head.


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Posted by on July 23, 2019 in No category


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Judith in the Pink

“In the pink” means in very good health, very good condition, physically and emotionally.  While del Moro’s Judith obviously fits this description, Holofernes obviously does not.

Battista del Moro (1514-1573/75), “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” c1550-1555, Oil on canvas, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence, IT


This Judith emerged from the private collection of Roberto Longhi to be part of the exhibition “From Giotto to Caravaggio The passions of Roberto Longhi”  presented March 27 to July 20, 2015 at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. The focus of the exhibition was a comparison of “the works of Caravaggio and those of his imitators, showing the influence of this artist’s themes and style on his contemporaries, first in Italy and then throughout Europe.” The exhibit also provided a glimpse into the artistic vision and careful collection of Roberto Longhi, considered the epitome of an art connoisseur and leading authority on Renaissance artists – especially Caravaggio.

As part of this exhibit, Battista del Moro comes centuries after Giotto (c.1270-1337) and decades before Caravaggio (1571-1610) – but this work is included as a possible “training piece” for Carravagio. It is speculated that he would have seen something like this and noted –

Del Moro plays wonderfully on the contrasts, in the idealized face of Judith and the more popular of her maid and between the decorative richness of the decor and the funeral character of the scene, accentuated by the macabre detail of the sinister look of Holofernes.

I don’t know that I would go so far as to describe this scene as funereal – although it is certainly macabre. Funereal suggests that there is grief involved and some tribute to the deceased. Instead, Judith and the maid seem anxious to escape and not at all troubled about having decapitated the general – and  I doubt if they will ask any one to prepare a eulogy for Holofernes. But the tension in the scene – the turn of Judith’s face away from the viewer, the maid receding in the shadow – those are elements that may have influenced Carravaggio in his own depiction of the carnage. And of course he made the scene darker – much, much darker – and less opulent.

Of course, I always worry about those jewels getting in the way and stains creeping onto the lovely fabrics. It would be a shame to mess up that lovely shade of pink with blood splatter.






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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in No category


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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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