Artista lunii iulie 2022

01.07.2022
Mary Magdalene, 1630-31, Artemisia Gentileschi. Palace Museum Sursock
Mary Magdalene, 1630-31, Artemisia Gentileschi. Palace Museum Sursock

Artemisia Gentileschi


Potrebbero essere di Artemisia Gentileschi (Roma, 1593 - Napoli, dopo il 1654) due dipinti che sono stati pesantemente danneggiati durante l'esplosione di Beirut del 4 agosto 2020, che ha provocato 207 morti e circa 7.000 feriti, e ha devastato una buona parte della capitale del Libano. Ne è convinto lo storico dell'arte libanese Gregory Buckhakjian, che conosce molto bene il luogo dove i due dipinti erano conservati, ovvero Sursock Palace, una sontuosa residenza del XIX secolo nei pressi del porto. Nei giorni successivi all'esplosione, Buckhakjian ha offerto il suo aiuto durante l'emergenza e ha avuto modo di conoscere da vicino le opere conservate a Sursock Palace, tra cui i due dipinti attribuiti ad Artemisia.

Buckhakjian ha discusso la sua tesi di dottorato, all'Università della Sorbona (nel 1993), proprio sulla collezione di Sursock Palace. Le opere arrivarono in Libano nel 1920, con il nucleo collezionistico di Alfred Sursock, che aveva sposato la napoletana Maria Teresa Serra di Cassano: la raccolta comprendeva opere di diversi artisti napoletani del Seicento, come Luca Giordano e Andrea Vaccaro. Buckhakjian ebbe per la prima volta l'idea di un'attribuzione ad Artemisia in quell'occasione: tuttavia, all'epoca, ha raccontato alla rivista Hyperallergic, "si trattava ancora del lavoro di uno studente. Quando discussi la mia tesi, i miei insegnanti mi dissero che era molto convincente e che avrei dovuto continuare la mia ricerca e pubblicarla. Ma non lo feci, perché all'epoca, dopo che tornai a Beirut, ero completamente sconvolto da quello che stava accadendo in città e mi dimenticai di Artemisia [era da poco finita la guerra civile libanese, ndr]. Le mie priorità riguardavano la città, la ricostruzione, eccetera".

Le indagini sono dunque finite in un cassetto fino allo scorso anno, quando i dipinti sono tornati alla sua attenzione: le opere sono un Ercole e Onfale, che secondo Buckhakjian risale ai primi anni Trenta del Seicento, e una Maddalena penitente del 1640 circa. Lo storico dell'arte libanese ha messo in comparazione le opere di Beirut con altri dipinti noti del catalogo della pittrice, soffermandosi sia sui dettagli (panneggi, gioielli, connotati) sia sulle composizioni, e riscontrando diverse analogie. Una delle due opere, la Maddalena penitente, è stata concessa in prestito per la mostra Le signore dell'arte a Milano (Palazzo Reale), e l'attribuzione era stata confermata da Riccardo Lattuada, specialista di Artemisia Gentileschi. Altre conferme sono arrivate dalla studiosa Sheila Barker, secondo cui alcuni elementi (come il tipo di gioielli, i tipi facciali, i tessuti) rimandano ai modi tipici di Artemisia.

I due dipinti sono ancora inediti: è tuttavia molto probabile che a breve Buckhakjian pubblicherà qualche studio in merito, così come è sicuro che le due opere andranno in restauro dati i danni che hanno subito durante l'esplosione (anche l'opera esposta a Palazzo Reale presenta ancora i segni subiti durante l'esplosione).


ENG

The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Gentileschi worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, represents the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia, in order to stave off a massacre of the Jewish people, breaking with court protocol and thereby risking death. Rather than turn to historical recreation, contemporary theater informed how Gentileschi conceived this dramatic scene, in which Esther faints before the king grants her request. An African page restraining a dog was painted out by the artist but is partly visible beneath the marble pavement to the left of the king's knee. 

She was born in Rome in 1593, the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi; she practiced her art in London, Florence, Venice, and Naples. Her biblical heroines-like Judith, Delilah, and Jael-are the committers of atrocious acts in which men become the victims. Her historical heroines possess a monumental and vital physicality at the dramatic moment of suicide, choosing to die rather than be subjugated. The artist's saints, from Magdalene to Catherine of Alexandria, are women who aspire to salvation, achieved through penitence or wisdom.

From her Neapolitan period, the exhibition displays David with the Head of Goliath, which was seen in her studio by Joachim von Sandrart in 1631, and the Magdalene from the theSursock Collection, which belongs to an aristocratic family in Lebanon. The painting was damaged during the explosion at the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 and is on display in its present damaged state. This newly discovered work has never been exhibited before and is a fundamental addition to the Gentileschi catalogue.

Artemisia's David is a dark-haired youth who looks straight out at the viewer, displaying the severed head of the violent Philistine giant. He is seated at the foot of a column, possibly in an ecclesiastical setting, in an allusion to the justification for his killing. David seemingly converses with the spectator while with his right hand he holds up the immense head of Goliath, which has been struck on the brow by the stone thrown from the sling which lies beneath it. The shepherd boy is silhouetted almost statuesquely by a masterful and dramatic play of light and shade. The dark setting communicates a dramatic atmosphere. The depiction of the giant's head and the bejeweled hilt of the sword display technical prowess emphasized in a full palette of greys and browns.


A previous composition, which may have inspired Artemisia, is the David by Domenico Fetti in the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden (see fig. 2). Artemisia appears to have adopted from this work the basics of the pose, the mountainous landscape, the placement of Goliath's head, and David's mode of dress. Artemisia could have been familiar with either Fetti's original composition, dated 1614-1615, or one of its several copies (see E. Safarik, Fetti, Milan 1990, p. 44-47, cat. no. 7).


The present painting had some affinity with both the international Caravaggio, such as the David by Nicolas Régnier (1588 - circa 1667) preserved in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon (see fig. 1), and the baroque painters as Giovanni Lanfranco's David, in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Florence (see fig. 3).
Violence is an examined theme in Artemisia's works in which bloody images, often extrapolated from brutal episodes of ancient and sacred history, recur like a fil rouge. The present example sits alongside pictures such as the famous Judith and Holofernes in Naples' Museo di Capodimonte (inv. no. Q378), the Judith and Abra at the Galleria degli Uffizii (inv. no. 1912 n. 398), the Medea in a private collection and the Jael and Sisera in Budapest (inv. no. 75.11). Although the rape committed by Agostino Tassi in 1611 is important for understanding the depictions of her images of violence, it is equally considerable that these kinds of subjects were particularly loved by the painter's clients of the time.


Provenance:
The present painting is most likely the one seen and described by Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) in Artemisia's studio in Naples in 1631: 'No less praise deserves the virtuous Artemisia Gentilesca, who, when I brought greetings from her father, the eminently famous Horatio Gentilesco, my peculiar and dear friend, showed me her superb paintings, including a very delicate David, life-size, holding the appalling head of the monstrous Goliath in his hands, which in addition to many other works by her hand was very reasonably made' (see documentation).
A painting of the same subject, measurements, and composition are described later in the inventory of Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani (1564-1637) in February-March 1638.
Sandrart was the curator of the Giustinani collection from 1632, when he settled in the family´s Roman palace (see S. Ebert-Schifferer, Naturalezza e 'maniera antica'. Joachim von Sandrart disegnatore dall'Antico, in: Caravaggio e I Giustiniani. Toccar con mano una collezione del Seicento, S. Danesi Squarzina (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Milan 2001, p. 57).


It is probable that Sandrart went to Naples to acquire paintings for the collection of the Roman nobles: in fact, already Klemm in 1986 (see literature) suggested that the picture seen by Sandrart in Artemisia's studio was the same one documented in the collection of Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani. In support of this hypothesis is the description of the painting in the Marchese's inventory, which is described: 'Un quadro con una figura intiegra di David che tiene la testa del gigante Golia dipinto in tela alta palmi 9. larga 6.½ incirca [di mano d'Artemisia Gentileschi'. (A painting with a full-lenght figure of David who holds the head of the giant Goliath, painting of canvas, height 9 palmi wide 6½ circa (by the hand of Artemisia Gentileschi).


There is at least one other known painting of David with the head of Goliath by Artemisia (see G. Papi, Un David e Golia di Artemisia Gentileschi, in: Nuovi Studi. Rivista di Arte Antica e Moderna, 1996, I, pp. 157-160) However, it differs from the present composition, as the giant's head is significantly positioned on the ground at the feet of David and is not held by David, as it is in the present composition. Moreover, there was a painting documented in the collection of Charles I (see R. Ward Bissel, Artemisia Gentileschi and the authority of art: critical reading and catalog raisonné, University Park 1999, pp. 361-362, cat. no. L-21) and another one is mentioned in the inventory of Don Ferdinando d'Afflitto, Prince of Scanno, Naples, dated 29 April 1700 (see op. cit. Lattuada, 2017, p. 193).
The painting in the collection of Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani was subsequently recorded in the inventories of Principe Andrea Giustiniani in 1667 and Benedetto Giustiniani in 1793. Vincenzo Giustiniani (1759-1826) sold a large part of the collection from 1804 onwards and it can be assumed that the present painting left the Giustiniani collection during this period.


Conclusion

This exhibition turns out to be an excellent opportunity to open our gaze to female artists and their production, to expose specialists and non-specialists alike to paintings that prove that women artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had no reason to envy their male counterparts.

Despite the fact that in the last decade female artists have been rediscovered and are gaining a prominent place in the history of art and in the museum, they still seem to occupy a place distant and apart, almost embodying that idea of "meraviglia" so dear to Vasari.

At any rate, in 2021 an exhibition on female artists should therefore not appear to be a revolutionary act, but rather a review to let everyone know the works created by extraordinary women. In fact, despite the society in which they lived and the subordinate position in which society placed them constantly, they managed to emerge and leave us a trace of themselves. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Salerno, The Picture Gallery of Vincenzo Giustiniani II: The Inventory: Part I, in: The Burlington Magazine, 1960, vol. 102, n. 684, p. 96, n. 68;
R. Ward Bissel, Artemisia Gentileschi: a new documented Chronology, in: The Art Bulletin, 1968, vol. 50, n. 1, p. 165 (lost work by Artemisia Gentileschi);
C. Klemm, Joachim von Sandrart: Kunstwerke und Lebenslauf, Berlin 1986, p. 61;
M. D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque, Princeton 1989, pp. 65-66, p. 109, p. 503 footnote 108 (lost work by Artemisia Gentileschi);
R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the authority of art: critical reading and catalogue raisonné, University Park 1999, p. 362 cat. no. L-22 and p. 362 cat. no. L-23 (lost work by Artemisia Gentileschi);
R. Contini, Ritagli giustinianei, in: Caravaggio e i Giustiniani. Toccar con mano una collezione del Seicento, S. Danesi Squarzina (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Milan 2001, pp. 65-66 (lost work by Artemisia Gentileschi);
Y. Primarosa, Appendice II. Artemisia Gentileschi nelle collezioni europee (1612-1723), in: Artemisia Gentileschi, storia di una passione, R. Contini/F. Solinas (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Milan 2011, p. 273;
D. Lutz, Artemisia Gentileschi: Leben und Werk, Stuttgart 2011, p. 108, p. 117 (lost work by Artemisia Gentileschi)
Literature:
F. Solinas, in: Artemisia: la musa Clio e gli anni napoletani, exhibition catalogue, Pisa 2013, pp. 46-49 cat. no. 4 (as Artemisia Gentileschi);
N. Spinosa, Grazia e tenerezza 'in posa'. Bernardo Cavallino e il suo tempo: 1616-1656, Rome 2013, p. 47 footnote 49, illustrated p. 62 fig. 47 (as Artemisia Gentileschi);
J. M. Locker, Artemisia Gentileschi: the language of painting, London 2015, p. 167, not illustrated (as Artemisia Gentileschi);
N. Spinosa, Artemisia e Napoli, in: Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2016, p. 55, not illustrated;
R. Lattuada, Unknown Paintings by Artemisia in Naples, and New Points Regarding her Daily Life and Bottega, in: Artemisia Gentileschi in a Changing Light, London/Turnhout 2017, p. 193, illustrated pp. 194-195 figg. 14-15 (as Artemisia Gentileschi)
Exhibited:
Pisa, Palazzo Blu, Artemisia: la musa Clio e gli anni napoletani, 23 March - 30 June 2013, pp. 46-49, cat. no. 4 (as Artemisia Gentileschi)


References: 

https://www.finestresullarte.info/

https://www.metmuseum.org/

https://artherstory.net/

https://www.dorotheum.com/