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Judith

de Sacchis Giovanni Antonio called Pordenone

(Pordenone 1484 - Ferrara 1539)

Formerly thought to be by Titian, the painting is now attributed – albeit with many reservations – to Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis, the painter from Friuli called Pordenone. It portrays the widow Judith, who has just cut off the head of Holofernes and is placing it into the bag held by her servant. According to tradition, after seducing the Assyrian general Judith entered the darkness of his tent, where she decapitated him with a scimitar.

The elegantly dressed young woman is depicted here as she faces the observer, proud of the deed she has just accomplished to save her people from the enemy’s army.

 

 


Object details

Inventory
091
Location
Date
c. 1516
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
cm 95 x 78
Frame

17th-century frame decorated with acanthus leaf and apple motifs, 114 x 106 x 6.5 cm

Provenance

Provenance: Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini (Inv. Olimpia Aldobrandini 1682; Della Pergola 1955); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 38. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Exhibitions
  • 1939 Udine, Galleria di Storia ed Arte.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1907 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1914 Tito Venturini Papari
  • 1936 Carlo Matteucci;
  • 1950 Decio Podi (cleaning);
  • 1993 Marcone/Sannucci (conservation report).

Commentary

This painting formed part of the estate of Olimpia Aldobrandini. Indeed in the 1682 inventory of the belongings of the wealthy noblewoman it is listed as ‘the portrait of the woman of the above-mentioned [Titian]’. This description was repeated in the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario: ‘Judith portrayed as Titian’s wife, by Titian’.

While all critics concur that the work comes from the Aldobrandini family, they have shown less agreement on the question of the artist. Bernard Berenson (1894) proposed the name of Polidoro Lanzani, an idea rejected by Bernardini (1910) in favour of Savoldo. For his part, Adolfo Venturi first suggested a painter connected to the school of Giorgione (1893), later making the more specific attribution to Pordenone (in Storia 1928); at the same time (in L'Arte 1928), this scholar published another Judith preserved in a private collection in France, which is quite similar to the work in question, with the exception of the figure of the servant.

Yet Venturi’s proposal did not persuade all subsequent critics. Noting several artistic defects, Giuseppe Fiocco (1939; 1969) could not accept the attribution to Pordenone, suggesting instead the little-known painter Sebastiano Florigerio. Earlier, though, Roberto Longhi (1928) had expressed agreement with Venturi’s thesis that the work was in fact by De’ Sacchis, dating it to roughly 1516, shortly after the execution of the well-known altarpiece of the Cathedral of Pordenone (Virgin of Mercy, 1515-16). This view has been accepted by subsequent critics (Della Pergola 1955; Lucco 1975; Furlan 1988; C. Stefani in Galleria Borghese 2000) and confirmed most recently by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006).

A drawing in an unknown location, noted by Mauro Lucco in 1974, may represent a preliminary sketch of the Borghese Judith.

Antonio Iommelli




Bibliography
  • F. W. B. von Ramdohr, Ueber Malherei und Bildhauerarbeit in Rom für Liebhaber des Schönen in der Kunst, Leipzig 1787, p. 277;
  • P. Caliari, Paolo Veronese, Roma 1888, p. 365 n.1;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 25;
  • A. Venturi, II Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 79;
  • B. Berenson, Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York 1894, p. 123;
  • G. Bernardini, Di alcuni dipinti della R. Galleria Borghese, in “Rassegna d’Arte”, X, 1910, pp. 143-144;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 80-86, 185;
  • A. Venturi, Ancora della biblioteca di Sir Robert Witt, in “L’Arte”, XXXI, 1928, pp. 199-200;
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell'arte italiana, IX, La pittura del Cinquecento..., Milano 1928, p. 662;
  • A. Spahn, Palma Vecchio, Leipzig, p. 132;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 398;
  • G. Fiocco, Giovan Antonio da Pordenone, Udine 1939, p. 143;
  • Mostra del Pordenone e della pittura friulana del Rinascimento, catalogo della mostra (Udine, Galleria di Storia ed Arte, 1939), a cura di B. Molajoli, Udine 1939, p. 112;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 83;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 54;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 126, n. 228;
  • L. Ferrara, Galleria Borghese, Novara 1956, p. 94;
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance - Venetian School, I, London 1957, p. 145;
  • G. Fiocco, Giovanni Antonio Pordenone, Pordenone 1969, I, pp. 143, 145; II tav. 225;
  • M. Lucco, Pordenone a Venezia, in "Paragone", XXVI, 1975, p. 23;
  • C. Furlan, Il Pordenone. L'opera completa, Milano 1988, p. 336, n. A24;
  • C. Stefani in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 401;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 34.