Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639)
Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639)

Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639)

Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes

with inscription 'B Capranica IN 68'; with inscription on the 18th Century relining canvas 'Horazio Gentileschi A.1612.Pizzo G.M.R.' (now covered by a recent relining canvas but illustrated by Pepper, see under literature below)
oil on canvas
51½ x 39¾in. (131 x 101 cm.)
(Possibly) Natale Rondanini (1540-1627), Rome.
Felice Zacchia Rondanini (active 1662-1710), Rome, and by descent to
Giuseppe, Marchese Rondanini (1725-1801; his initials 'G.M.R.' on the relining canvas, see above), Rome, by whom bequeathed to
Don Bartolomeo Capranica, by 1806 until 1841 when the palace (and presumably its contents) was sold.
with Colnaghi, New York (Italian, Dutch and Flemish Baroque Paintings, 4 April - 5 May 1984, no. 11).
Inventory of the collection of Felice Rondanini, 1662, as 'Una Juditta che ho [sic] tagliata la testa ad Holoferne, tela da Imperatore [= 6 palmi = 132cm.] dicesi di mano di Orazio Gentileschi con cornice dorata nelle stanze del Cardinale' (see L. Salerno, Palazzo Rondanini, 1966, pp. 279 and 284).
G. Ghezzi, Quadri delle Case de'Prencipe in Roma, Ms., Palazzo Braschi, Rome, 1700, fols. 40 and 159 (where the two San Salvatore in Lauro exhibitions are cited).
R. Ward Bissell, Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting, University Park (Pennsylvania) and London, 1981, pp. 154, under no. 26, 156, under no. 27, and 218, no. L-31, as lost.
S. Pepper, Baroque painting at Colnaghi's (Exhibition Review), The Burlington Magazine, CXXVI, no. 974, May 1984, p. 316 and p. 314, figs. 39 and 40 (detail of the inscription on the verso of the canvas).
Catalogue of the exhibition, Around 1610: The Onset of the Baroque, Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd., London, 14 June - 16 Aug. 1985, p. 48.
M. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi, Princeton, 1989, p. 498, note 56 (as probably not by Orazio Gentileschi).
Rome, Cloister of San Salvatore in Lauro, 10-13 Dec. 1694 (as 'Giuditta del Gentileschi').
Rome, Cloister of San Salvatore in Lauro, 10-13 Dec. 1710 (as 'Giuditta con la testa d'Oloferne del Gentileschi').
Florence, Casa Buonarroti, Artemisia, 18 June - 4 Nov. 1991, no. 2, as Orazio Gentileschi (entry by Gianni Papi).

Lot Essay

After the reappearance of the present picture in 1984, Professor R. Ward Bissell (private communication) suggested a dating in the second half of the first decade of the 17th Century by comparison with The Road to Calvary in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Bissell, op. cit., fig. 152), the David slaying Goliath in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (ibid., fig. 31) and The Circumcision of Christ at Ancona (ibid., fig. 24), all of c. 1605 or slightly later. This makes it the earliest depiction by Gentileschi of a theme which he was to paint on at least six later occasions and which was to hold a particular significance for his daughter Artemisia, whose painting of it in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence (included in the 1991 exhibition as no. 10, illustrated in colour) would seem to have been inspired by the present work. Clovis Whitfield (in the catalogue of the 1984 exhibition), followed by Dr. Stephen Pepper (loc. cit.) suggest that the present painting is the 'Judith of large size' by Orazio mentioned in the notorious trial of Agostino Tassi in 1612 for the rape of Artemisia as having been allegedly removed by Tassi from Artemisia's house in the previous year.

Similar inscriptions to those placed on the front and back of the canvas when in the Rondanini and Capranica Collections are also evident on Carlo Saraceni's Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, which was with Patrick Matthiesen in 1985 (see under Literature above) and is currently with him again.

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