Friday, March 18, 2022

Rome Journal: Caravaggio e Artemisia: la sfida di Giuditta

"Judith Beheading Holofernes" by Caravaggio (1598-99 or 1602)

Caravaggio and Pasolini were the bad boys of Italian art. Despite their genius both lived on the edge and courted the underbelly of society. Caravaggio was rumored to have been killed in an act of revenge, though syphilis may also have been the cause; Pasolini fell victim to a street hustler. One can’t help but note that Roberto Longhi, the art history professor Pasolini studied with at Bologna, was responsible for the discovery of the lost masterpiece “Judith Beheading Holofernes” which is the subject of "Caravaggio e Artemisia: la Sfida di Guiditta" (“The Challenge of Judith") at the Barberini. The enormous impact Caravaggio had is demonstrated in the current display of paintings by contemporaries who approached the same subject matter. However, it was Artemisia Gentileschi whose "Judith" most profoundly resonated her predecessor’s spirit. Artemisia was raped by her teacher Agostino Tassi and the violent encounter and ensuing trial undoubtedly allowed her to be particularly conversant with the brutality of Caravaggio’s imagery. The provenance of the painting which had been commissioned by Ottavio Costa, a banker and patron of the arts in the Medici mold, is also examined. The way different artists deal with similar themes and the question of what makes for greatness in a painting is central to the current exhibit. In one instance paintings of “Judith and Her Maidservant” by Artemisia and her father Orazio stand side by side, emphasizing if nothing else, the sensibility that father and daughter shared.

read "From the Jan. 6 Archive" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the animation of Erotomania.

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