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BERENICE CUTTING OFF HER HAIR
SN 175, oil on canvas, c. 1695-1705
From: "The Pages"
Antonio’s father was the painter Giovanni Molinari (1633-87). Born in Venice, he studied there with Antonio Zanchi. His style had its roots in the naturalism & tenebrism (dark,shadowy gloom) of Neopolitan painting. Molinari tempered his work, tho’ with the addition of classicizing elements & rich, glowing colors.
By the 1680s he had developed his characteristic depiction of figures in poses of extreme torsion & vigorous movement, arranged in graceful compositions. He drew subjects from the Bible, antiquity, & mythology. Many of his drawings also survive, showing great speed & fluency in composition.
Molinari has been called an artist of transition, but he was never a direct precursor of Venetian 18th c styles. His voluminous firmly-modeled forms & rich colors remained rooted in Baroque. He had few followers, but Piazzetta carried some elements of his style into the next century.
In 247 BC, Berenice married Pharaoh Ptolemy III. When her husband embarked on an expedition, she cut off her hair and dedicated it to Venus as a sacrifice to bring her husband safely home. When he did safely return, he named a star after her shorn locks.
This painting has been attributed to both Lazzarini & Pellegrini, but in 1959 it was given to Antonio Molinari. (Since Lazzarini & Molinari worked together in the Palazzo Moro-Lin, it is not surprising that they shared a common style, derived from Giordano.)
The square format suggests some kind of architectural setting, and the subject would lend itself to a series of classical heroines.