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Caravaggio and Artemisia, between drama and seduction

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ROME – The violent and sensual vision of the biblical myth of Giuditta Caravaggio that has returned in a painting that has entered the collective imagination due to its disruptive force, alongside the all-female interpretation of that same theme offered by a tenacious, courageous and passionate artist like Artemisia Gentileschi: the encounter between the two famous artists at Palazzo Barberini in Rome is all about the dramatic power, in the exhibition “Caravaggio and Artemisia: the challenge of Judith. Violence and seduction in painting between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”, set up from 26 November to 27 March 2022. Curated by Maria Cristina Terzaghi, the exhibition develops around the famous Caravaggesque painting “Judith who decapitates Holofernes” – 70 years after its rediscovery, which took place in 1951 thanks to the restorer Pico Cellini, and 50 from the acquisition by the Italian State – to investigate its fortune and the ability to represent a breaking point in the history of painting precisely for the s ua revolutionary composition, which has become a model that inspired many.

There are 31 canvases – mostly large and coming from important Italian and international museums, from the Borghese Gallery in Rome to the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, from the Prado in Madrid to the Kunsthistorisches in Vienna – exhibited in a dense itinerary, divided into 4 sections, which recounts the many interpretations of the Judith theme between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: first the sixteenth-century context (with a splendid Tintoretto) to highlight the first attempts at a new representation, then the explosive impact of Caravaggio’s canvas, in for the first time central is the vehement staging of the crime and the culminating moment of emotion. Painted at the dawn of the 1600s on commission from the banker Ottavio Costa, the canvas was jealously guarded by the owner, who not only forbade it to be sold even after his death, but did everything he could not to make it known, discouraging the making of copies: yet the ‘echo of this painting was very profound, marking a’ before ‘and an’ after ‘. In the third section of the exhibition appears Artemisia Gentileschi, the greatest interpreter of the myth of Judith, who several times together with her father Orazio measured herself with this subject: the painter chose to identify herself with the biblical heroine and, looking at the unattainable master Caravaggio, took the opportunity to enhance the theatricality of the theme by conveying the message of a strong woman, an example of virtue. Finally, the fourth room, dedicated to the comparison between the theme of Judith and Holofernes and that of David and Goliath. “This project on 17th century painting manages to reverberate on today: the date chosen for the presentation of the exhibition is random, but it certainly offers the opportunity for further reflection on the female question”, the director explained to ANSA. of the National Galleries of Ancient Art Flaminia Gennari Santori, referring to 25 November, International Day against Violence against Women, “the idea of ​​the exhibition was born to investigate the different ways of viewing the works by artists, public and clients. Giuditta di Caravaggio was not supposed to be seen, yet it had an extraordinary impact. Then with Artemisia and her father the scene changed again, triggering an even different emotional urgency “.

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“Caravaggio identifies himself with Holofernes, to ask himself what happens at the moment of death. Artemisia as a woman identifies herself with Judith”, says the curator Maria Cristina Terzaghi, “we do not know if the painter saw Caravaggio’s canvas but it certainly reached her her unstoppable echo. For Caravaggio Giuditta is a heroine intent on her mission, as can be seen from her frowning brow and her concentrated gaze while doing God’s will. a woman can kill a leader. Then there is the difference of the servant next to Judith: in Caravaggio she is an elderly woman, in contrast to the beauty of the protagonist, two opposites that exalt each other. Artemisia instead represents a young servant, perhaps recalling her dramatic personal experience. After the rape suffered by Agostino Tassi the artist in fact accused her friend Tuzia of not having helped her. Certainly, the two canvases are united by to the idea of ​​the acme of action that builds the story and its narrative. In this Artemisia is Caravaggesque “.

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Source From: Ansa

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