GIOVANNI BATTISTA LANGETTI

(Genoa 1635 – Venice 1676)

 

Job Cursed by His Wife

 

Oil on canvas


44 x 34 ½ inches
(111.7 x 87.6 cm)

Provenance:

Alfred (1883-1961) and Hermine Stiassni (1889-1962), Brno, Czech Republic, by 1925; thence London, 1938-1940; thence Los Angeles, 1940-1962; thence by descent to:
Susanne Stiassni Martin and Leonard Martin, San Francisco (until 2005); thence by descent to:
Private Collection, California (2005-2016)

Exhibited:

Künstlerhaus, Brünn (Brno), 1925, as by Ribera

Literature:

Alte Meister aus mährischem Privatbesitz: Ausstellung im Künstlerhaus / Brünn (Mährischer Kunstverein) Vienna 1925

Max Steif, “Alte Meister in mährischen Privatbesitz,” Belvedere, I, 7, no. 2-3; n.s. 32/33 (Feb. – Mar. 1925), p. 44, as by Ribera

Wart Arslan, “Nuovi dipinti del Museo dell’Alto Adige,” Archivio per l’Alto Adige, XXXIII, no. 2, p. 6.

Marina Stefani, “G. B. Langetti,” unpub. dissertation, Università di Padova, 1965-66, pp. 152-3, as by Langetti

Marina Stefani, “Giovanni Battista Langetti,” in Carlo Donzelli and Giuseppe Maria Pilo, I Pittori del Seicento Veneto, Florence 1967, p. 214, as by Langetti

Rodolfo Pallucchini, La Pittura veneziana del Seicento, Milan 1981, vol. I, p. 249, as by Langetti

Marina Stefani Mantovanelli, “Giovanni Battista Langetti,” in Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell’Arte, XVII (1990), p. 71, as by Langetti

Marina Stefani Mantovanelli, Giovanni Battista Langetti; Il Principe dei Tenebrossi, Cremona 2011, p. 207, cat. No. 109, fig. 68, as by Langetti, with bibl.

 

Langetti was Genoese by birth and may have trained under Gioacchino Assereto, but an early trip to Rome established his stylistic direction.  He studied there under Pietro da Cortona, but soon developed an interest in Caravaggism – in particular as practiced by Ribera— and it is thought he spent some time in Naples, given his affinity for the work of Ribera, Francesco Fracanzano, and, especially, Luca Giordano.  It may have been Giordano who advised Langetti to take up his career in Venice following the outbreak of the plague in Naples.

Langetti moved to Venice in 1656 and spent the remaining twenty years of his short life there, becoming quite successful, as his more than 120 known paintings attest.  He was the leader of a group of Venetian tenebrist painters including Antonio Zanchi, Pietro Negri and Johann Carl Loth.  Langetti’s style is vigorous and his brushwork vibrant; his quasi-scientific interest in anatomy is demonstrated in the depiction of figures whose bodies are invariably semi-clothed and well-articulated.

         Job Cursed by His Wife is an outstanding example of Langetti’s art.  Although medieval retellings expanded the role of Job’s wife, the essence of the subject comes from one passage in the Book of Job:

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2: 9-10)

The composition is simple but powerful.  Job is seated, partially draped, in what seems to be a dark hovel.  He is both muscular and emaciated, although the extent of his physical suffering is suggested only by the presence of a single boil on his thigh.  His glance upwards to his wife, imploring and pained, is harshly returned.  The four hands expressively reflect the drama:  Job’s acceptance amidst his questioning of what had brought him to this state and his wife’s berating of her husband.  Langetti has not neglected to place a wedding band on her left hand.

 

The theme was treated several times by the artist – perhaps a reflection of the veneration given to this archetype of patience and suffering in Venice, where Job was considered a saint: a church and a hospital were dedicated to San Giobbe (Saint Job).  Marina Stefani Mantovanelli (2011, p. 207) has written of Langetti’s treatments of the Job theme:

“…It is important to mention two issues: the first is that the figure of Job was traditionally interpreted, and not only in the seventeenth century, as the exemplum of a man who, bowing his head, accepts the actions of God, beyond the fact that those actions may have been a punishment or a test. But, secondly, Job is also the believer who denies a pietistic interpretation of human suffering and who does not fear questioning God concerning the legitimacy of the punishment to which, according to his friends, he deserves. We cannot say whether Langetti knew these interpretations, but certainly one cannot deny that Job, beyond his substantial acceptance of his situation, expresses some doubt about the harm that has befallen him.”
— Marina Stefani Mantovanelli (2011, p. 207)

In addition to the present work, which she dates ca. 1670, Mantovanelli notes other treatments of the Job theme by Langetti in Pommersfelden, Rovereto (Musei Civici), and in private collections in Genoa and Rome.  The relative popularity in Venice of this rarely depicted subject – painted not only by Langetti, but by Carl Loth, and Luca Giordano as well-- may be connected to the devastating outbreak of the plague that afflicted the city in 1630 and the veneration of Job as a protector of those afflicted by skin diseases.  For Langetti the subject provided an opportunity to explore the issues of suffering, patience, faith, and obedience implicit in the biblical tale, not neglecting the passions observed in this vivid evocation of a marital dispute.