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Caravaggio and Artemisia: the Challenge of Judith
25 January 2022

As many as 29 masterpieces from museums around the world, including Artemisia Gentileschi's extraordinary Judith and Holofernes from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, to document the disruptive novelty of Caravaggio's revolution in painting contemporary to him.
From November 26, 2021 to March 27, 2022, Palazzo Barberini will host the exhibition "Caravaggio and Artemisia: The Challenge of Judith. Violence and seduction in painting between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries", curated by Maria Cristina Terzaghi.

Hosted in the new rooms on the ground floor of Palazzo Barberini, the exhibition celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the acquisition by the Italian State and the seventieth anniversary of the discovery of the famous painting by Caravaggio preserved in Palazzo Barberini: Judith and Holofernes.

The exhibition is divided into four sections and opens with Judith at the crossroads between Mannerism and Nature, a selection of sixteenth-century works that show the first signs of a new representation of the theme

The canvas Judith Beheading Holofernes by Merisi is the fulcrum of the second section dedicated to Caravaggio and his first interpreters and stages a real murder by decapitation, constituting a break with tradition and finding a counterpart only in the contemporary production of sacred representations and theatrical dramas.

It took a woman, however, to step completely into the shoes of the biblical heroine. The greatest interpreter of the subject was, without a doubt, Artemisia Gentileschi, to whom the third section is dedicated, Artemisia Gentileschi and the theater of Judith. Artemisia, together with her father Orazio, tackled the subject several times, understanding its potential in relation to the representation of the female figure as a strong woman, and exemplum virtutis, and the theme, thanks to her work, will become a genre in great demand in the European courts.

The fourth and final section, The Virtues of Judith. Judith and David, Judith and Salome is dedicated to the comparison between the theme of Judith and Holofernes and that of David and Goliath, united by the allegorical reading of the victory of virtue, cunning and youth over the brute force of the tyrant who ends up decapitated. The beheading is also the basis of the Gospel text of the martyrdom of John the Baptist, and the theme of Salome is often confused in pictorial representation with that of Judith.

What: Caravaggio and Artemisia: the challenge of Judith
Where: Palazzo Barberini, via delle quattro Fontane 13
When: 26 November 2021 > 27 March 2022
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