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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, Florence, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi

 

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

Before.

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

After.

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.

 

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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in No category

 

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Judith is takes the round way home

My friend recently referred to herself as “zaftig.” I have decided that is my new favorite word, preferred to “Rubenesque.”  According to Merriam-Webster, it means “of a woman – having a full rounded figure, pleasingly plump.”  Zaftig has been in use since the 1930s – deriving from the Yiddish zaftik, which means “juicy” or “succulent.”  Well, isn’t that delicious?

How appropriate that a Yiddish term should aptly describe this powerful portrait of Judith.

Giovanni Cariani (c. 1490–1547), Judith, c. 1510-15, Oil on panel. 69 x 56.5cm, Francesca and Massimo Valsecchi private collection

If you have read this blog before, you already know I prefer Judith to be powerful. And rather proud of her accomplishment. But not so proud or pleased that she creates the impression of a malevolent misandrist.

This Judith appears to strike the right balance of strength and resolve, fortitude and purpose. Although her maid may be in disarray and distress, Judith is portrayed as thoughtful and determined — on the way back to Bethulia to display her prize.

(I also love her jaunty pink sash and matching shawl. A heroine must dress the part!)

Compliments for this portrayal go to Giovanni Cariani, a High Renaissance artist style whose is considered a hybrid of his upbringing in Bergamo and training in Venice.  He first studied in the studio of Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516) — “Father of the Venetian Renaissance” — where he was exposed to the works of other well-known students, most notably Giorgione, Titian, Lorenzo Lotto, and Sebastiano del Piombo. The  exhibition In the Age of Giorgione (Royal Academy of Arts, London, March 12 to June 5, 2016) examined the various influences that shaped the work of many celebrated names in Renaissance art and, using this Judith as an example, Carina’s style was compared to his contemporaries. As one observer noted –

(In La Vecchia) Giorgione’s lowly sitter maintains a moving quality of self-possession and personal identity, which contrasts with the histrionics of the equivalent figure in Giovanni Cariani’s crude painting of Judith hanging nearby. (1)

Histrionics? HISTRONICS?!! What do you mean HISTRIONICS??!!!  She looks remarkably composed, considering she just behead a general in secret and is now covertly carrying his head in a bag past the rest of his army.

Unless … the critic is referring to the maid as the “equivalent figure” to La Vecchia … in which case I would have to agree.

Giorgione (1477-1510), La Vecchia (The Old Woman), c. 1508, Oil on canvas, 68 x 59 cm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Italy

 

But back to Cariana.  His style could also be compared to Palma il Vecchio (c.1480-1528) and il Pordenone (c.1484-1539) — also of Lombardy and also working in Venice.  Palma il Vecchio did not train with Bellini as did Cariana, but he likely studied under Andrea Previtali (c.1480 –1528) – one of Bellini’s students. There is no documentation that the two artists ever studied or worked together, but certainly their style of sturdy figures in pastoral settings is a reflection of their similar paths. In fact, Palma il Vecchio’s Judith with the Head of Holofernes is one of the most zaftig portrayals I have reviewed. Il Pordenone (aka Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis) also portrayed Judith as sturdy – and has the distinction of three different portraits (seen in “Judith gets serious”). Neither did il Pordenone study with Bellini – but he was a rival to Titian. To the point that there was a rumor than Titian poisoned il Pordenone.

And I thought gossip and intrigue were modern inventions. Some things never change.

(1) Tom Nichols,  “EXHIBITION REVIEW: Giorgione. London,” The Burlington Magazine, June 2016, No. 1359 – Vol 158.

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Posted by on November 11, 2017 in Story

 

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Judith makes a Happy Homemaker

My trip to The Dayton Art Institute re-envigorated my work on this blog and the pursuit of All Things Judith. I honestly thought I had exhausted the catalog of depictions of Judith – at least those from the before 2010. But I was wrong, and I am happy to be wrong (n this case only): there is more Judith to be found.

And some of it is not so far away.

In Judith Goes Exploring (I), I mused about a trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts to view Titian’s “Judith with the head of Holofernes” and Gentileshi’s “Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes.” But somehow I missed this statuette by Antonio del Pollaiuolo.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1432-1498), “Judith”, c1470, bronze with traces of gilding, 50.8×22.9×10.2 cm,The Detroit Institute of Arts/Gift of Eleanor Clay Ford, Detroit, MI

 

Antonio del Pollaiuolo was a Renaissance artist in Florence – painter, sculptor, engraver and goldsmith – which leads me to ponder both the Renaissance and Florence and where he fit in with the other artists of his time period.  It is said the Renaissance began in Florence in the 14th century, spurred by a melting pot of factors including the unique political, social and civic aspects of Florence and the patronage of its dominant family, the Medici. The renewed interest in classical Greek and Roman aesthetics led to a humanistic and rational approach to literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, and religion – the focus turning to realism.  One of the major masterpieces of the Early Renaissance are the bronze doors of the Flofence Baptistery by Lorenzo Ghiberti that became famous from their unveiling and influenced subsequent artistic expression. And Pollaiuolo is part of this masterpiece, training in Ghiberti’s workshop along with other rising artists of the time: Donatello, Masolino, Michelozzo, and Uccello.

Of course, Donatello went on to produce his sublime David (c.1440s) and vicious Judith and Holofernes (1457–64). In fact, Pollaiuolo’s statuette has much in common with Donatello’s life size bronze, in terms of her flowing robes and the arm raised with the fachion. But Pollaiuolo’s Judith is minus the dying Holofernes at her feet and appears to be in a better mood with a slight smile on her face.

Perhaps there is a reason for her pleasant expression. Roger J. Crum, in The Sword Of Judith (Brine, Ciletti, and Lähnemann, 2010) surmises that – while David became the public face of Florence’s patriotism – while Judith was essentially back to her domestic life.

Whether representing the act of killing Holofernes, or literally showing a subsequent return to Bethulia, Florentine representations of Judith all variously imply or directly reference the eventual return to domestication of the heroine … Florentine images of Judith were predominantly private and domestic objects. With the exception of Ghiberti’s representation of Judith on the Gates of Paradise, which was obviously for public display, Donatello’s celebrated bronze group, several examples from Botticelli and his circle, a bronze statuette by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, and two engravings attributed to Baccio Baldini all come from the private sphere or were clearly intended for reception in non-public, intimate environments.

So this Judith becomes a household object – something to be a semblance and reminder of feminine virtues. And if you want your Judith to represent a Happy Homemaker, this particular statuette would fit the part nicely.

More reason for me to find time for that trip to Detroit!

 

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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Glory

 

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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.

Judith (1591-1624) Antiveduto Grammatica (2)

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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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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