Judith and Holophernes by Virginia da Vezzo

Virginia da Vezzo (1597-1638)
Judith and Holophernes, c. 1624-1626
Oil on canvas - 98 x 74 cm
Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Galleria W. Apolloni – Roma

29/4/09 – Acquisition – Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts Judith and Holophernes by Virginia da Vezzo (or da Vezzi), the wife of Simon Vouet (ill.), particularly struck visitors during the exhibition devoted to the latter’s Italian years (see our review) [1]. It has just been acquired by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes and thus will return there permanently after its stop in Béziers.

This is the only acknowledged canvas by the artist, with her name confirmed in an engraving of 1626 by Claude Mellan. The style is very close to that of Vouet, although, as Guillaume Kazerouni wrote in the catalogue entry “the contours are more defined and the drawing is sharper”. The attribution of another painting of the same subject to Virginia, held in Munich and exhibited in 2005 at the Grand Palais, is not unanimously accepted by specialists whereas a Danaë from the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin might be, still according to Guillaume Kazerouni, in fact by her.

We wrote (in French) in 2005 : “The museum in Nantes seems interested, both in the case of acquisitions and exhibitions, only in the 20th and 21st centuries, thus neglecting an important part of its collection.” Fortunately, this attitude seems to have now changed, since following the large paintings of Claude-Marie Dubufe acquired last year (see news item of 20/10/08), the purchase of this Judith and Holophernes and the organization of the Vouet exhibition reflect a renewed interest in old masters. We hope that this will carry over into the future addition to the museum announced in early April by the city.

Let us point out however a few misstatements in the information provided to the AFP. The city underlined that the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes is “known notably for its collection of 850 contemporary works”, which is slightly misleading : Nantes stands out particularly for its extensive holding of old masters and 19th century art. To say that the extension “will be unique compared to other provincial museums in that it does not focus on one specific period but ‘covers all art from the 12th century to today thanks to the wealth of its collections’” is simply absurd, as most of France’s museums are in the same case. This boasting serves no purpose : the museum extension (on condition that the refurbishment respects the old building) is an excellent piece of news in and of itself. Let us hope that the project, which, alas, will mean closing the museum for one year, will respect this deadline.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 29 avril 2009


[1] We will soon return to the conclusions of this exhibition with the help of Dominique Jacquot, one of the two scientific curators for the show along with Adeline Collange.

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