By Martina Bollini

Italian painter Cristofano Allori was born on 17 October 1577 in Florence. Son of Alessandro allori, Cristofano initially trained in his workshop, before entering the studio of Gregorio Pagani: Cristofano wanted to abadon his father’s rigid maniera in favor of a more naturalistic style.

At this early stage of his career, Allori was mainly active as a portrait painter, his work in this field typified by the Portrait of Bernardo Davanzati of c.1605 in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. From 1605 onwards, Allori was one of the most successful painters in Florence, counting among his patrons the Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici and other members of the Ducal court. Allori himself was a perfect courtesan: indeed, he was also a poet, a musician, and a dancer.

Judith with the head of Holofernes, one of Allori’s best-known compositions (of which numerous versions exist), perfectly shows the painter’s use of rich colours and of his sophisticated rendering of texture and form. The severed head of Holofernes is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist.

In the second part of his career, sacred art was largely predominant: in addition to the massive Resurrection for the cathedral of Pistoia (1610), Allori executed a series of religious easel pictures characterized by intense emotionalism, graceful movement and superb draughtsmanship.

Allori died in Florence in 1621. His work marks a watershed between the generation of reformed artists such as Cigoli, Passignano, and Pagani, and the younger generation of Florentine painters such as Furini, Dandini, and Vignali.

Reference: Jack J. Spalding IV and Miles L. Chappell, Alessandro Allori (1535 – 1607) and Cristofano Allori (1577 – 1621), in Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press.

Self-portrait, 1606, oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Bernardo Davanzati Bostichi, c. 1605, oil on canvas, The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. 

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1613, oil on canvas, Royal Collection, Windsor.

Self-portrait: Study for the head of Holofernes, Département des Arts graphiques Louvre, Paris.

Study of a Tree, 1610-1620, Red chalk, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Saint Francis in Prayer, oil on copper, Ulster Museum (National Museums Northern Ireland), Belfast.

Tobias and the Angel (with Giovanni Bilivert),c. 1620,  oil on canvas, British Embassy, Rome.

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