Some days, you just run out of things to say. This is one of those days.
Unknown artist, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” ca. 1550, Carved marble statuette, 48 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
The V&A website describes this as a statuette (a little statue) made of marble (a metamorphic rock) and carved in the round. “The sculptor has paid great attention to detail, both on the front and back, where he has continued the fine floral pattern on the robe. He apparently used chisels for finishing the surface of the carving … The face and proportions of Judith’s figure reflect the decorative work at Fontainbleau.”
Decorative work at Fontainbleau? What does that mean and how do they know that?
So I will take a stab at fleshing it out. “Fontainbleau” (I assume) refers to the Château de Fontainebleau — the 12th century medieval castle and later residential château of French monarchs from Louis VII (1120-1180) through Napoleon III (1808-1873). It was the center of two periods of artistic production in France during the late Renaissance that formed the French version of Northern Mannerism known as Ecole de Fontainebleau. The first (and most influencial) period began in 1531 when King François I brought Italian artists Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio for extensive decoration of the palace — later joined by Niccolò dell’Abbate. Their style was characterized by erotic figures with long limbs and sharply defined elegant profiles, imbued with an elaborate and sometimes mysterious iconography from allegories and mythology. One of the best examples of the first Ecole de Fontainebleau is Diana the Huntress, found in the Louvre.
Ecole de Fontainebleau, “Diana the Huntress,” ca. 1550 and 1560, oil on canvas, 192 x 133 cm, Louvre, Paris, FR
So somehow from looking at the statuette of Judith — the turn of her head, the shape of her breasts, the design chisled into her gown — an art historian can connect her to this style. I sort of see it … and I sort of don’t, so I will take their word for it. And hope that seeing her in person adds more to what can be said. Until then …
See you at the V&A!