L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Three paintings by Cristofano Allori + 2

The Hospitality of St. Julien, circa 1615-1620.
The beautiful modeling of the faces and bodies of the three younger men - the warm, soft but precise light - and the way they are posed - the very
particular stance of the boatman, the tender way the barely covered pilgrim is held by the red-shirted young man - I find quite remarkably sensual.

Cristofano Allori (17 October 1577, Florence – 1 April 1621, Florence), Italian painter of the late Florentine Mannerist school whose work marks a transition to the early Baroque. He was the son of Alessandro Allori, and thus the "grand-nephew" of the great Bronzino. He received his first lessons in painting from his father, but later entered the studio of Gregorio Pagani, who was one of the leaders of the late Florentine school, which sought to unite the rich coloring of the Venetians with the Florentine attention to drawing. Much of Allori's output was in portraiture, and his often extreme fastidiousness meant that his oeuvre is small.

St. John the Baptist in the Desert. Date unknown.
Judith With the Head of Holofernes, circa 1610-1612.

He is best known for his much copied Judith With the Head of Holofernes. His seventeenth-century biographer claims that the model for the Judith was the artist's mistress, Maria Mazzafirri - La Mazzafirra - (died 1618) and that the elderly servant was posed by her mother, while the head of Holofernes is generally thought to represent the artist himself. Allori and La Mazzafirra - who posed for several of his paintings - reportedly had a very tumultuous relationship, and the Judith can be easily interpreted as a commemoration of their unhappy liaison and the artist's suffering.

There is something quite remarkable about this depiction of the beautiful, sensual face of La Mazzafirra. The caressing light, the direct, challenging gaze, the sense of impending movement in the mouth. That, along with the brilliant color of the whole and the deceptively calm grace with which it tells its dramatic story - Judith turning, leaning back slightly, her servant leaning forward - make it easy to understand why this painting has been so greatly admired from its first appearance more than four hundred years ago.


I should mention that Allori's Judith was painted right around the same time as Caravaggio's David With the Head of Goliath. Both employ a similar pose, and both are said to be a portrait of the artist's lover in the role of slayer - a favorite former studio assistant in the case of the Caravaggio - and a self portrait in the role of slayed.

David With the Head of Goliath, by Caravaggio, circa 1605-1610.


And I'd be no respectable completist if I didn't include my own Judith, my own nod to the particular pose and autobiographical content; both portraits are of the artist this go 'round. I have to say that I made no conscious reference to either of these paintings when conceiving mine, but I certainly knew of them and I must have pulled from that knowledge.

Judith et Holopherne, 2010.