Marc Labarbe, auctioneer in Toulouse, discovers the painting in an attic.
The canvas is sent to Eric Turquin, an expert specialized in Old masters in Paris.
Refusal of the export certificate of the painting, which results in its classification as "National Treasure" by the Ministry of Culture. The French State has 30 months to make an offer.
"Attorno a Caravaggio"
Exhibition in Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera. The painting is presented for the first time to the public, and exhibited next to the copy made by Louis Finson.
Exhibition in Milan, Palazzo Reale, that presents for the first time 23 paintings of Caravaggio with their X-rays, infrared reflectography, shedding new light on his creative process.
In-depth analysis of the table
Comparison with other works of Caravaggio
1. JUDITH AND HOLOPHERNE BY CARAVAGE
The scene is recounted by a biblical text, the Book of Judith composed in Palestine towards the end of the 2nd
century BC JC.
The action is in 800 BC. Judith lives in Bethulia, a city besieged by
Holofernes. While the city is exhausted, ready to surrender to the enemy, Judith, a young widow of great beauty,
decides to seduce General Holofernes. He organizes a banquet in his honor. At the end of the
evening, he falls asleep drunk in his room. Judith then kills him with two sword strokes.
"In the evening, his servants hastened to leave each home, and Vagao closed the doors of the room and departed. All were asleep with the wine they had drunk. And Judith was alone in the room. Holofernes was lying in his bed all overloaded with sleep by the excess of wine. And Judith commanded her servant to stand outside the door of the chamber, and to watch there. Praying with tears, and stirring her lips in silence, she says, " Lord God of Israel, strengthen me, and see you
favorable at this moment that my hand will do so that you will meet, according to your promise, your city of Jerusalem, and that I finish what I thought I could do by your assistance ". Having spoken thus, she approached the column which was at the bedside, and untied her saber which was attached to it. Then, taking it from the scabbard, she took Holofernes by the hair of her head and said: Lord God, strengthen me at this time ". She then struck him on the neck twice, cut off his head; and having drawn a curtain out of the pillars, she threw down her dead body.
- Holofernes, lieutenant of the immense army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who besieges Bethulia in Samaria.
- Judith, literally "the Jewess".
- Abba, the maid of Judith.
Three ancient testimonies refer to paintings of Caravaggio representing Judith and Holofernes.
- The painter Giovanni Baglione (1566 - 1643) deals in his writings with a painting belonging to the banker Ottavo Costa.
- A letter dated 17 September 1607 from the Flemish painter Franz Pourbus (1569 - 1622) evokes a painting painted in Naples by Caravaggio.
- The Flemish painter Louis Finson (1580 - 1617), who bequeaths on November 19, 1617 a canvas on this subject to his disciple Abraham Vinck.
These testimonies are proof that Caravaggio executed several versions of this episode of the Bible.
Nowadays, we are aware of two versions:
- Judith and Holofernes, version of Rome. Order of Ottavio COSTA.
- Judith and Holofernes, version of Naples. Until now known by a copy, recognized as such, attributed to the painter Louis Finson (1580 - 1617).
In both versions, horror increased by:
- the confinement of the scene
- the disproportion between frail Judith and the gigantic Holofernes
- the hideous and grimacing maid
The choice of the moment.
In both versions, the choice of the moment breaks with the tradition, which consisted rather in recounting the preliminary of the murder when, during the banquet, Holofernes was seduced by Judith. Here is shown the now infigurable and central moment, the sword stroke being given, the blade midway, in the middle of the neck, the head that begins to separate from the body, pulled back by the hair that Judith's hand grips and the blood streams.
Unique moment, decisive, mortal, without past, without future: timeless. Judith will never stop cutting off Holofernes' head.
The table discovered in Toulouse is admirable both for its technical and aesthetic qualities. Confronted with the painting of Judith and Holofernes kept in Rome but also to the copy made by Louis Finson after an original Caravaggio, kept in Naples, it becomes very complicated to say that this painting can be in another hand than from that of Caravaggio.
Caravaggio, life and work
Leading a dissolute life with brawls, murders and leaks, her mysterious personality continues to fascinate us today.
Died before he was 39, he enjoyed outstanding celebrity status despite his more than controversial style.
Caravaggio will impose, not without setbacks and conflicts, his will of renewal and of invention, never ceasing to associate the sacred with the profane to nourish his imitation of the natural. He refuses the rhetorical hierarchy between noble subjects and low subjects. The radically innovative nature of his art played a decisive role in the affirmation of the principles of realism, from the very beginning of the seventeenth century.
Caravaggio "Destroyed all the good uses of painting Giovanni Pietro BELLORI (1613 - 1696).
" With Caravaggio, destruction of the painting means death of the painting of history, in a dark room through which a burst of light that captures, immobilizes, stupefies the figures in an instantaneous time, which neutralizes the duration of the representation in painting ". Louis MARIN (1931 - 1992).
Caravaggio and its context
Artistic time is governed by the precepts of the Catholic Counter-Reformation (Council of Trent, 1545 - 1563). In response to Protestantism, the Counter-Reformation wants to extend the practice of Catholic worship to a wider range of people. Artists are responsible for designing their work from a "propaganda" perspective by making religious art accessible to ordinary people. Images become "instruments for uniting men to God". The taste of Caravaggio's realism coincides with this desire to pay more attention to the most modest, and to reconcile devotion and communication.
The sponsors of works: priests, nobles or all honored persons who wish to beautify churches or persons practiced in the field of letters and studies.
Caravaggio will deal mainly with sacred subjects. The nature of the work entrusted to him was often intended for places of worship, but always financed by private persons. He revolutionized religious art by his very realistic approach, human and daily representation of biblical texts that could also shock the reformers. Thus, the painting The Death of the Virgin, painted with the main model the corpse of a drowned prostitute was refused by the clergy of the Church of Santa Maria della Scala in Rome.
In Italy, especially in Rome, it is the time when the mannerism It is a must for religious buildings with artists such as Girolamo MUZIANO (1532 - 1592), Federico BAROCCI (1528 - 1612) and Federico ZUCCARI (1539 - 1609).
Annibal Carrache (1560-1609), working with his brothers, Ludovico and Agostino, academic painter par excellence, advocates a painting based on the ancient models and the looking for the beautiful ideal. It embodies a school of painting that will tend to another interpretation of the precepts of the Council of Thirty: where Caravaggio will opt for a naturalistic vision and a representation based on popular models, the Carracci do not move away from so-called "classical" models. creating paintings by means of a clean drawing, and at the disposition and the balanced colors.
It is in the studio of Simone PETERZANO (Bergamo v. 1540 - Milan 1596), a Lombard artist, that Caravaggio, entering there at the age of 12, acquires the first rudiments of his training as a painter. PETERZANO is considered one of the best representatives of Late Lombard Mannerism. Caravaggio will paint during these four years of learning a significant number of portraits.
His manner is set up very early in his career, in his twenties. He arrived in Rome in 1592.
- 1592: Dejected and unknown, he enters the studio of Lorenzo Sicialiano, near Campo Vaccino, where he will paint "heads".
- End of 1592: He is hired in Rome by a painter named Antiveduto Grammatica, in his studio near the church San Giacomo in Augusta. At this time appears in his painting the "stereotype of the androgynous" (Young boy peeling a pear, Young boy bitten by a lizard, sick Bacchus ...).
Ill. Boy with fruit basket, circa 1593, Borghese Gallery / The young sick Bacchus, circa 1593, Borghese Gallery. / Young boy bitten by a lizard, 1595-1596, National Gallery, London.
- June 1593, entry to the workshop of "Cavalier d'Arpin", the most prestigious of Rome, organized on the model called "alla Torretta": distribution of tasks according to collaborators, some painting landscapes, others garlands of flowers according to their merit and experience ... He will leave this workshop in January 1594 in troubled circumstances; Michelangelo Merisi paints "flowers and fruit baskets".
His protectors (collectors & patrons)
Throughout his life, Caravaggio has surrounded himself with the most influential personalities of his time (which will allow him, among other things, to escape a death sentence), among which:
Costanza Sforza Colonna, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo. (Capital personality of the Counter-Reformation in Italy), Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, Cardinal Girolamo Mattei and his brother Ciriaco Mattei, Borghese including Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Maffeo Barberini (future Pope Urban VIII) bankers Ottavio Costa and Vincenzo Giustiniani ...
Caravaggio and dates
Complaint is filed against Michelangelo Merisi and some of his friends for having "heckled" near piazza Santi Apostoli.
Caravaggio leaves the workshop of Cavalier d'Arpin following a quarrel with obscure origins.
Complaint against Caravaggio by a man he abused.
A man is wounded with a sword stroke by Caravaggio.
Caravaggio spends one night in prison for carrying illegal weapons.
Caravaggio is the subject of a complaint for defamation on the part of Giovanni Baglione.
Caravaggio throws a plate of artichokes in the shape of a waiter. He was arrested and put in jail a few days later for throwing pebbles at a patrol of guards.
Caravaggio hurts a notary in the face. The painter will make a brief stay in Genoa.
Caravaggio kills Ranuccio Tomassoni in a duel. Punished with death penalty, he must leave Rome and flee to Naples and Malta.
Caravaggio is imprisoned in Malta for taking part in a fight.
He escapes from prison.
Caravaggio is expelled from the order of Malta.
Caravaggio is attacked by a group of men in front of Santa Maria Nova de Naples church.
Caravaggio died before he was able to return to Rome where pontifical grace was to be granted.
Caravaggio and creating a new way
- Alessandro BONVICION says "The Moretto" (v. 1495 - 1554). Innovative method in the use of light and the distribution of color in a game of white and dark. Often described as "pre caravaggesque" by its way of granting a "spiritual" dimension to the human but also to the landscape that surrounds it. Dramatically lit landscape.
- Lorenzo LOTTO (1480 - 1557). Landscape, play of light, cold tones, glazed.
- Antonio (1523 - 1587) and Vincenzo (1536 - 1591) CAMPI. Promoters in Lombardy of a naturalism that Caravaggio will metamorphose in a revolutionary way.
- Ambrogio FIGINO (1553 - 1608)
- Vincenzo FOPPA (1427 - 1519)
- Giova Paolo LOMAZZO (1538 - 1592)
No preparatory drawing. Caravaggio is known for having designed and produced his paintings without preparatory drawingswhich were replaced by outlined sketches in brown or black on the canvas. His works are the result of many "repentances" (confirmed by the radiography of his paintings).
He also practiced incisions in the canvas with the handle of the brush, even with a punch. These traces work like landmarks to fix on the canvas the position protagonists.
Whether the subject is religious or profane, Caravaggio has endeavored to paint it by drawing inspiration from real life, deliberately popular, with attention to detail and the rejection of idealization. The characters of the Old and New Testament or of Greek antiquity thus become human beings going about their daily and "terrestrial" occupations. The sacred event is "secularized", re-established in its daily life in order to be recounted as it could have been perceived by its contemporaries, without reducing its spiritual dimension. Conversely, Caravaggio's painting can be seen as a metamorphosis of everyday life into a sacred dimension.
Caravaggio's touch, fast, is nonetheless smooth and precise, making it possible to account for the density of painted objects. Shadows shape volumes. When Caravaggio painted "Bacchus" preserved in the Uffizi (Ill. 1), he manages to restore both the transparency of the glass, its density: looking at it, we feel the lightness and fragility of this object.
Caravaggio also knows how to distance himself from the "beautiful ideal" advocated since the beginning of the Renaissance, and modeled on the art of antiquity. He does not hesitate to paint reality in its entirety, uncompromising: pale complexion, dirty nails, blackened teeth ... Look for example the representation of the hands of "Holofernes" in the painting kept in Rome (Figure 2) or the feet of one of the peasants of the "Madonna of Pilgrims" (Fig. 3).
There again, religious scene or secular scene, he takes his models in everyday life: thugs, beggars, prostitutes and restores their brutal reality, which again is not without shock some of his contemporaries. In the guise of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Ill. 3) has been identified Fillide Melandroni, famous courtesan of the time. Or Mario Minniti, his waiter and collaborator whose face we find in the player of Luth, the Bacchus or the Fortune teller.
IN ROME. Valentin de Boulogne says Valentine (1591 - 1632).
IN ROME AND VENICE. Nicolas REGNIER (1588 - 1667).
IN PARIS. Simon VOUET (1590 - 1649), Claude VIGNON (1593 - 1670).
EAST OF FRANCE. Georges de la TOUR (1593 - 1652). Antoine, Louis and Mathieu LE NAIN (born between 1593 and 1607).
AT THE VELAY. Guy François (1578 - 1650).
TO AVIGNON. Bigot Trophy (1579 - 1650).
IN TOULOUSE. Nicolas TOURNIER (1590 - 1639). Feel free to admire his works at Augustinian Museum of Toulouse.