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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

Pietro Ricchi

(Lucca, 1606 – Udine, 1675)

Judith
(1660−1670), oil, canvas, 131,2 x 105,3 cm

NG S 1271, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The motif of this wonderful painting is taken from the Bible (Judith 13, 1–9) and shows Judith just after she has cut off Holofernes’ head (his corpse can be seen in the background on the left) and is handing it to a maid to put it into a sack. The heroine is gazing to the heavens and thanking the Lord.

The style of the picture is characteristic of Pietro Ricchi’s late period and should thus probably be dated to the time around 1660–1670. The brushwork and the way in which the draperies fall are very similar to those on the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa of Avila in the Museo Civico in Udine, which also dates from the last years of the painter’s life. Judith’s face bears a remote resemblance to Guido Reni’s painting of the same motif, which is kept in the Galleria Spada in Rome, but the influence of Milan and Venice, which is particularly obvious in the lower part of the figure, can also be seen.

Restored: 1960, ZSV, Ljubljana.
Provenance: Joco Novaković collection, Belgrade; the painting was sold before World War II; in the Narodna galerija since 1950.
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 24; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 16.
Lit.: Cevc 1960, pp. 21–22, Cat. No. 24, Fig. 15 (Giovanni Andrea Donducci, called Il Mastelletta); Gamulin 1961a, pp. 101, 107, Fig. 5 (Giovanni Andrea Mastelletta); Gamulin 1964, pp. 127, 133, Fig. 76 (Mastelletta); Rizzi 1972, p. 133, No. 24 (Tuscan (?), 17C); Gamulin 1973 –74, pp. 83–84, Fig. on p. 84; Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, p. 111, Cat. No. 16, Fig. 17; Poggetto 1996, p. 386, Cat No. and Fig. 290.

From Mannerism to Baroque

Although imported early-Baroque works prevailed in this period and those by itinerant artists, the 17th century paved the way for the future. The political circumstances in the region were relatively stabilized in spite of the Thirty Year War and the patronage gradually grew stronger. The arrival of the Jesuits in Ljubljana, the activity of the polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor, particularly his graphic workshop at Bogenšperk/Wagensperg Castle, and the foundation of the Academia operosorum at the end of the century were the key events of the time. 

Characteristic of sculptural production on the Slovenian territory in the 17th century were the so-called “golden altars”. As a rule, these were gilded and polychrome carved wooden retables with rich ornamentation, first with crustaceous patterns which turned into vine and grapes that covered architectural framework until the achantus foliage took over and obliterated architectural structure completely. The making of golden altars included several branches of fine arts: prints, carving, gilding, painting. Religious painting of the first half of the century still contains Mannerist elements; in the second half also secular motifs became more numerous, particularly genre scenes and aristocratic portraits. The artworks mainly echo northern early-Baroque influences. 

Noteworthy among the newcomers who settled in Carniola with their workshops were the painter and gilder Hans Georg Geiger von Geigerfeld in the mid-century, who had moved to Carniola from the region of the Central Alps, and the Fleming Almanach in the third quarter of the 17th century, known only by his nickname, who worked here only for a few years. The extraordinary productivity and skills of the latter are evidenced by his rare surviving works, mentions in Valvasor’s books, and aristocratic probate inventories.