Friends Lecture: Steven Ostrow on “Caravaggio’s Judith and Holofernes: History Painting and the Poetics of Violence”

With generous support from the Mark and Mary Goff Fiterman Fund, the Friends of the Institute present Steven Ostrow, professor of art history at the University of Minnesota.

Tickets will be available on April 15 for Friends members, and on April 17 for the general public

In 1599, after producing a series of largely single-figure genre works and just before receiving his first public commission, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio—early modern Italy’s most revolutionary painter—executed his first truly dramatic history painting for the discerning Genoese-born collector in Rome, Ottavio Costa.  Depicting the violent beheading of the Assyrian general Holofernes by the beautiful Jewish heroine Judith, it marked a radical turning point in the history of depictions of this subject and, more broadly, in the history of Italian painting.

This lecture will present Caravaggio’s mesmerizing work within the context of his own, turbulent life; in relation to the religious and social Roman world in which the painter lived; with respect to its place within the painter’s own maturation as an artist; and with regard to the development of early baroque Italian painting.  Special attention will be given to the work’s unprecedented brutality, drama, and psychological intensity; its temporal and physical immediacy; and its (often overlooked) eroticism.