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Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760)
Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760) - Paintings & Drawings Style Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760) - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760) - Antiquités - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760)
Ref : 110854
60 000 €
Period :
17th century
Artist :
Francesco Conti (1682 – 1760)
Provenance :
Medium :
Oil on canvas
Dimensions :
l. 22.52 inch X H. 26.85 inch
Paintings & Drawings  - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760) 17th century - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760)  - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760) Antiquités - Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760)
Stéphane Renard Fine Art

Old master paintings and drawings

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Judith and Salome a pair of painting by Francesco Conti (1682 - 1760)

This widely referenced pair of paintings is one of Francesco Conti’s most successful productions. Francesco Conti is one of the finest painters of 18th-century Florence. In the shimmering colors typical of his best work, he represents two opposite characters from the Bible: the virtuous Judith, whose courage saves her people by cutting off the head of the invader Holofernes, and the depraved Salome, who under the influence of her mother becomes responsible for the beheading of the prophet John the Baptist.
The artist's talent lies in his ability to treat these two macabre subjects with a light touch, presenting us with two attractive women who seem to twirl with glee amidst the severed heads...

1. Francesco Conti, the “Florentine Tiepolo”

Francesco Conti is a major painter of the Florentine school of the 18th century; he can even probably be considered, along with Giovanni Domenico Ferretti (1692-1768), as one of the two main painters of the second quarter of the Florentine 18th century.

Born in Florence in 1682, Francesco Conti began his apprenticeship in the workshop of Simone Pignoni (1611 - 1698), a disciple of Francesco Furini; he was also influenced by the Venetian Sebastiano Ricci. A protégé of Marquis Riccardi, he accompanied him to Rome between 1699 and 1705, where he frequented Carlo Maratta's studio. He settled permanently in Florence in 1705.

Painted exclusively on canvas, the majority of his work consists of religious subjects, altarpieces or private devotional works. It is likely that Conti himself was a devout churchgoer, as evidenced by his affiliation, in the third decade of the eighteenth century, to the Society of the Disciples of Saint-John-the-Baptist, and his entry, at the end of his life, into the fraternity of the Venerable Society of the Holy Trinity.

In Florence, Conti worked for the Grand Duchy's major patrons, including the last Medici - in particular Giangastone and Annamaria Luisa, Electress Palatine - and confirmed his role as a reference painter under the Lorraine Regency, as master of the Public Drawing School, which was closely linked to the institute responsible for the manufacture of semi-precious stone mosaics, then located in the Uffizi complex.

Matteo Marangoni, an art critic of the early 20th century, praised his "brushwork full of elegance and true spirit of the 18th century", pointing out that Conti was "probably one of the best colorists" of the Florentine school of his time. These two characteristics led the art historian Paolo dal Poggetto to nickname him the "Florentine Tiepolo".

2. Judith and Salome, two biblical characters opposing each other

These two paintings form a pair presenting two biblical episodes, which have in common the depiction of a "heroine" carrying the severed head of a man.

While the Salome episode might at first appear to be an echo of the Old Testament story of Judith, each character is the exact opposite of the other. Judith, whose story is told in the Book of Judith, is a beautiful young widow from Bethulia who, accompanied by her maid, went into the camp of the invading Assyrians and won the confidence of Holofernes, the general commanding the enemy army. Invited to a great feast on the fourth evening, she took advantage of Holofernes' drunkenness to cut off his head. “She went up to the bedpost near Holofernes’ head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed, took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength today, O Lord God of Israel!” Then she struck his neck twice with all her might, and cut off his head. Next she rolled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts. Soon afterward she went out and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag. Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to do for prayer. They passed through the camp, circled around the valley, and went up the mountain to Bethulia, and came to its gates. ” Judith is therefore a model of a strong, deeply religious woman whose courageous action liberates her people and leads them to victory over the invaders.

Salome's character is the exact opposite of Judith's. She is the daughter of Herodias, who left her first husband to marry his brother Herod Antipas. The story of the fateful banquet is recounted in the Gospels according to St. Mark and St. Matthew: " Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother." Salome is just a child living in a depraved court; she obtains the beheading of a man driven by her mother, to satisfy her whim.

3. Description of the artworks

Judith is depicted in mid-body, her face festooned and her body adorned in her finest finery. The shimmering colors evoke a luminous triumph. With her right hand, she leans on the sword with which she has just severed Holofernes' head, and with her left hand, she brandishes his head, holding it by the hair. Her maid, crouching on the lower right, opens her food bag to collect the severed head.

The angular folds of the maid's clothing are characteristic of Francesco Conti's early artworks, such as his Ascension of the Virgin and Christ in the Garden. They suggest that these paintings were probably produced in the second decade of the eighteenth century.

Salome is also depicted as a woman rather than a young girl. As she advances to bring the dish containing the prophet's head to her mother, she turns to face the guard who has decapitated St. John the Baptist, as suggested by the sword held in his firm hand. The swirl of red cloth surrounding her, which could have an evil connotation, accompanies her moving body. The composition, featuring a cellar lit vertically by an oculus, could be inspired by Titian's Ecce Homo.

The triangle formed by the three heads (Salome's head, which seems to turn towards the guard, and her arm, which guides our gaze from the guard to the head of Saint John the Baptist, whose eyes are closed, but who nevertheless seems to be staring at Salome) is particularly successful and masterly painted.

The presence of feathers in the hairstyles of these two women is also a particularly charming detail: marks of light-hearted coquetry, these feathers contrast with the macabre character of the two episodes depicted and are one of the most representative details of the neo-Mannerist treatment offered here.

These two paintings have been identified as two important works of Francesco Conti since the work of Sonia Meloni Trkulja, which led to renewed interest in Conti's work in the 1980s, as evidenced by the large number of publications in which they appear.

The quality of these two paintings, their singularity in the artist's oeuvre and the limited representation of this important Florentine artist in the Uffizi Gallery's collections (which only include his self-portrait and two artworks in darker colors, a Crucifixion and a Way of Calvary) had led the Gallery to consider their acquisition when the export license for these two works was issued. In the end, this acquisition did not materialize, which means that we can now present them for the first-time outside Italy.

4. Framing

We have chosen a pair of 18th-century Italian frames from the Marche region to frame this pair of paintings.

Literature :
S. Meloni Trkulja - Conti, Francesco in Dizionario Biografica degli Italiani, XXVIII (1983), Roma page 402
S. Meloni Trkulja - Francesco Conti illustrato, Arte Cristiana, 707 (1985) pages 85-86
S. Meloni Trkulja - Conti, Francesco in LA PITTURA (1990), II, page 678
Concept 1995 - Concept of a collection 1650-1994, Donatella Mei, Rivka Rinn - Montespertoli (FI) - pages 6, 30, 32
F. Berti - Francesco Conti pittore fiorentino (tesi di Laurea, Università degli Studi di Firenze 1996-1997) page 84
S. Bellesi - Catalogo dei pittori fiorentini del '600 e '700 - (2009) Firenze I page 113
F. Berti - Francesco Conti - (2010) Edifir Edizioni Firenze pages 134- 135

Delevery information :

The prices indicated are the prices for purchases at the gallery.

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Stéphane Renard Fine Art


17th Century Oil Painting