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Orazio Riminaldi

Orazio Riminaldi Sansón derrota a los filisteos Musée de Grenoble
Samson defeats Philistines, 1625

A painter from Pisa, Orazio Riminaldi was a Baroque tenebrist born in 1586 on September 5th. Riminaldi was unfortunately one of many painters who died young, in his case from the plague in 1630, but it is what he accomplished in those brief years that merits attention. Riminaldi's expressive faces and body language, along with superb skin tones and dramatic skies, take his art to a deeper level than some his contemporaries, who were perhaps more cautious in their techniques.

Look at the fury of the scene above. It is quite rare in painting to see a pile of bodies with a warrior like Samson no less, stepping on top of one while grabbing the hair of another. And yet Riminaldi manages to make it look majestic and noble. The anatomy of the figures shows foreshortening combined with Caravaggio's chiaroscuro in a tight yet carefully arranged composition. By making it vertical, in a triangular design, it heightens the sense of drama while requiring less figures to paint. The shadows also maintain plenty of detail to see the figures. Here we see how Riminaldi uses physical contrast in how the figures are alternating from prone to supine to twisting to the right. Interestingly, Samson is not depicted as a large man but strong in intention. Note the background figure fleeing in horror.

Juno Putting the Eyes on the Peacock's Tail, 1600's

A haunting interpretation of Juno, where she takes the eyes of decapitated Argus to place into the feathers of the peacock, Riminaldi creates a scene that stings more of harsh realism than Greek mythology. Note however, the interesting similarities to Samson above. Her figure appears strong and heroic, one foot on top of his corpse lieing supine on the ground beneath her. The anatomy once again is extraordinary. Riminaldi drapes her in vivid red that contrasts perfectly with the dream-like greenish-grey skies behind her. This is a stunning work of art that requires long observation.

The Martyrdom of St.Cecilia, 1630

Not one for sentiment even with female subjects, Riminaldi portrays St. Cecilia, patron saint of music being grabbed forcefully by the hair from her executioner. However, this time the descending angel is no longer a distant background figure but a key element in the composition. Note the violin and bow beside her laid in the shape of a cross, which the executioner looks down at thoughtfully. Her robes are in bright complementary colors. Although it seems rather restrained as a whole for a work by Riminaldi, the inherent drama taking place needs no explanation. It is powerful nonetheless.

O Riminaldi Amor Victorioso 1627 P Pitti
Amor Vittorioso, 1627

In a nonchalant polarity to his other works, here Cupid is depicted as a fully-grown adult, completely self-aware and mature. Note the very sharp swords beside him, mimicking the angle of his leg. Riminaldi has no illusions about love here. What you see is what you get. His work questions what we hold to be sacred or romanticize versus what we tend to ignore or run away from. This was truly a thinking man's painter.


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