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Orazio Gentileschi's Relationship with Caravaggio and the Region of Marche Explored

  • Orazio Gentileschi - Detail of the Circumcision
July 29, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

At the end of 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, the iconic Italian painter Caravaggio was a sort of a celebrity. His innovative style was saluted throughout the country and logically the artist had many admirers and followers within the art circles. One of them was Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639) whose practice is an illustrative example of the impact of Carravaggism.

Namely, this particular painter started his career in Rome as a devoted practitioner of Mannerism, and his work was mostly based on painting the figures within the decorative schemes of other artists. However, after 1600 Gentileschi embraced the more naturalistic style of Caravaggio. The painter spent a significant part of his career in the Marche region wherein between 1613 and 1619 he produced several commissions for wealthy patrons in the cities of Ancona and Fabriano. At one point he moved to Paris to the court of Marie de Medici, and eventually to England where he worked at the court of Charles I of England.

Currently on display is an exhibition titled Light and Silences: Orazio Gentileschi and Caravaggesque painting in 17th century Marche exploring Gentileschi’s practice primarily in the context of this toponym and the influence of Caravaggio.

Left Orazio Gentileschi - Our Lady of the Rosary Right Orazio Gentileschi - Madonna with Child and Santa Francesca Roman
Left: Orazio Gentileschi – Our Lady of the Rosary, 1613-1617. Oil painting on canvas, 293 x 201 cm. Civic Picture Gallery “B. Molajoli”, Fabriano / Right: Orazio Gentileschi – Madonna with Child and Santa Francesca Roman, 1615-1818. Oil painting on canvas, 270 x 157 cm. Marche National Gallery, Urbino

The Gentileschi Exhibition Context

The exhibition curated by Anna Maria Ambrosini Massari and Alessandro Delpriori is part of the Mostrare le Marche (Showcasing Marche) project aimed to promote awareness and development of the areas struck by the devastating earthquake back in 2016. It is the last in a series of five exhibitions that were presented in the surrounding cities.

The curators decided to focus on the period that Orazio Gentileschi spent in the region where Caravaggio’s paintings are not to be found despite being documented, but whose influence is crucial for the legacy of Gentileschi and his companions. Therefore, the exhibition will showcase the latest discoveries, comparisons with other artists and further exploration of the relationship between Gentileschi and Caravaggio. Although the artist is rarely known outside Italy, his practice stands out for a specific kind of aesthetic saturated with melancholy typical for Caravaggesque style, which is a central theme of the exhibition.

Left Orazio Gentileschi – Maddalena Right Orazio Gentileschi – Circumcision
Left: Orazio Gentileschi – Maddalena, ca. 1620. Oil painting on canvas, 220 x 155 cm. Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Fabriano / Right: Orazio Gentileschi – Circumcision, 1607. Oil painting on canvas, 390 x 252 cm. Church of the Gesù, Ancona

The Works

The masterpieces completed in Ancona (1606-1607), Fabriano (1613-1619), and the canvases Circumcision, The Virgin of the Rosary, today in the Pinacoteca Civica, the Vision of St Francesca Romana, now in Urbino (Galleria Nazionale delle Marche), and the intense Maddalena from the Università dei Cartai will be reunited for the first time. All of the mentioned works will be presented in a room interpreting Gentileschi’s work in regards to his contemporaries such as Baglione (who was very active in Marche), Turchi, de Boulogne, Vouet, Cagnacci and Guerrieri and others.

The works about to be presented in the impressive settings of the Cathedral of San Venanzio, including the Crucifixion, and in the Church of San Benedetto will present Gentileschi’s works as a response to Caravaggism.

On display will be the impressive painting the Circumcision of Ancona which features the face of Artemisia Gentileschi (the artist’s famous daughter and noted painter, then fourteen years old) portrayed as Saint Cecilia playing the portable organ. This discovery was revealed by Lucia Panetti, a young researcher from the town of Sassoferra.

The installment will also include the work of Bolognese and Roman artists who acted as a counterpoint of the Caravaggesque style; this selection will show the influence of the dominating tendency but with a more classical rhythm by featuring paintings made by Giovanni Lanfranco, Emilio Savonanzi, Simone Cantarini, Guido Cagnacci, Giuseppe Puglia and Girolamo Buratti.

Left Guido Cagnacci - Penitent Magdalene Right Giovan Francesco Guerrieri - Penitent Magdalene
Left: Guido Cagnacci – Penitent Magdalene, 1637-1640. Oil painting on canvas, 218 x 147 cm. Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Urbania / Right: Giovan Francesco Guerrieri – Penitent Magdalene, 1625-1630. Oil painting on canvas, 214 x 145 cm. Pinacoteca and Civic Museum of Malatesta, Fano

Orazio Gentileschi at Pinacoteca

This exhibition will definitely shed new light on meetings, mutual influences, and the general atmosphere in the region. It involves the many artists that operated under Caravaggio’s influence and spread his explosive novelty throughout Marche. The audience will have a unique opportunity to enjoy iconic works made throughout one of the most fruitful periods in art history; a time when a dramatic change in arts happened as a reaction to new philosophical and theological inclinations.

Here is important to underline the exhibition gathered a prestigious group of experts including some of the leading authorities in this field such as Gianni Papi, Daniele Benati, Raffaella Morselli, and Keith Christiansen.

Light and Silences: Orazio Gentileschi and Caravaggesque painting in 17th century Marche will be on display at Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Molajoli in Fabriano (Ancona), Italy from 2 August until 8 December 2019.

Featured image: Orazio Gentileschi – Detail of the Circumcision with Artemisia Gentileschi in the guise of Santa Cecilia. All images courtesy of Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Molajoli.