Cristofano Allori (17 October 1577 – 1 April 1621) was an Italian portrait painter of the late Florentine Mannerist school. Allori was born at Florence and received his first lessons in painting from his father, Alessandro Allori, but becoming dissatisfied with the hard anatomical drawing and cold coloring of the latter, he entered the studio of Gregorio Pagani, who was one of the leaders of the late Florentine school, which sought to unite the rich coloring of the Venetians with the Florentine attention to drawing. Allori also appears to have worked under Cigoli.
His pictures are distinguished by their close adherence to nature and the delicacy and technical perfection of their execution. His technical skill is shown by the fact that several copies he made of Correggio’s works were thought to be duplicates by Correggio himself. His extreme fastidiousness limited the number of his works. Several examples are to be seen at Florence and elsewhere.
His most famous work, in his own day and now, is Judith with the Head of Holofernes. It exists in at least two versions by Allori, of which the prime version is perhaps that in the British Royal Collection, dated 1613, with various pentimenti. A version of 1620 in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence is the best known and there are several copies by studio and other hands. According to the near-contemporary biography by Filippo Baldinucci, the model for the Judith was his former mistress, the beautiful “La Mazzafirra”, who is also represented in his Magdalene, the head of Holofernes is a self-portrait, and the maid is “La Mazzafirra”‘s mother.
Allori was born in Florence from Maria and the painter Alessandro di Cristofano Allori, pupil and pupil of the well-known Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino, a title he had inherited from the master and which he also transmitted to his son. Alessandro, who after the death of Bronzino (1572) and Vasari (1574) could boast of being among the first painters of Florence and enjoying great consideration at court, took him very early in his workshop, so much so that already in 1590 Cristofano he signed his first canvas, a bitter Portrait of Count Ugo of Tuscany. In the shop he assimilated the paternal design, he devoted himself to copy the canvases ofRaphael and Fra Bartolomeo, studying the works of Bronzino and Ligozzi, engaging in the portrait: that of Francesco and Caterina de ‘Medici dates from 1596.
Cristofano, who looked at the examples of Cigoli and Santi di Tito, over the years and with the change in taste that now required a trait and a softer color, showed himself dissatisfied with Michelangelo ‘s manner and his father’s cold colors, which he took to badly his criticisms that seemed to discredit him; for his part, Cristofano “used to respond to those who spoke to him, that his father was a heretic in the art of painting”, so, on a day in 1600, he went to paint in the workshop of Gregorio Pagani (1558 – 1605), exponent of the Florentine school of late Mannerism, which sought to unite the rich color of the Venetians with attention to the typical Florentine design.
The Blessed Manetto that heals a dumb cripple is the first fruit of his activity independent of his father – depicted, according to Baldinucci, in the figure of Manetto, «old canuto with small beard» – and, although he left the shop of Pagani «The painting offers only tenuous traces of Gregorio’s style: the essential parts, such as the compositional trend and the dense and light-imbued pictorial matter, demonstrate the decisive and traditionally recognized role that Cigoli had in this first maturation of Cristofano » without forgetting the« concentrated severity »of the faces, typical of Passignano.
His works stand out for their strict adherence to nature and for the delicacy and technical perfection of their execution. His technical ability is demonstrated by the fact that some copies of Correggio ‘s paintings seem to have been made by Correggio himself. His extreme fussiness has limited the number of his works. Several works are exhibited in Florence.
His masterpiece is probably the Judith with the head of Holofernes. It exists in three versions: one at Palazzo Pitti in Florence the second in the Queen’s Gallery in London and the third in a private collection in Arenzano in the province of Genoa. The model for Giuditta was her lover, the beautiful Mazzafirra, who is also represented in the Magdalene, and the head of Holofernes is generally considered a self-portrait.
In Italian literature
The writer Michele Mari in his novel Rondini sul filo (1999) repeatedly refers to the canvas by Allori that portrays Giuditta and Oloferne.
Portrait of Count Ugo of Tuscany, o / tl, 150 x 183 cm, Uffizi, Florence 1590
The blessed Manetto heals a dumb cripple, o / tl, 193 x 139 cm, Church of SS Annunziata, Florence
St. Francis in prayer, o / tl, 144 x 112 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome
Portrait of a young man, o / tl, 51 x 39.5 cm, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine
Judith with the head of Holofernes, sketch, o / tl, 139 x 116 cm, Palatine Gallery, Florence
The Supper in Emmaus, o / tl, 54 x 39 cm, Palatine Gallery, Florence
Davide and Golia, sketch, o / tl, 48 x 37 cm, Uffizi, Florence
The Virgin gives the rosary to Saint Dominic, or / copper, 56 x 36 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Santa Maria Maddalena in the desert, or / copper, 29.6 x 43 cm, Galleria Palatina, Florence
Madonna and Child, o / copper, 14.5 x 12.5 cm, Galleria Palatina, Florence
Madonna and Child, sketch, o / tv, 20.5 x 15.8 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Self-portrait, o / tl, 53.3 x 40.3 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Penitent Saint Mary Magdalene, o / tl, 145 x 91 cm, Palatine Gallery, Florence
Portrait of Giulia Gonzaga, o / tv, 143.5 x 108.5 cm, Galleria Palatina, Florence
Portrait of Maddalena of Austria, wife of Cosimo II, o / tl, 204 x 114 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Portrait of Maddalena of Austria, wife of Cosimo II, o / tl, 63 x 49 cm, Galleria Palatina, Florence
Manly portrait, o / tin, 67 x 51 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Portrait of a young man, o / tin, 4.3 x 3.5 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Portrait of Cosimo II, o / tl, 66 x 55 cm, Museum of Still Life, Poggio a Caiano
Resurrection, sketch, o / tl, 86 x 52 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Susanna ei vecchioni, sketch, o / tv / tl, 49 x 34.4 cm, Uffizi, Florence
The martyrdom of Saint Stephen, sketch, o / tl, 78 x 63 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Adoration of the Magi, o / tl, 337 x 220 cm, Palatine Gallery, Florence
Saint Francis, o / tl, 199 x 145 cm, Palatine Gallery, Florence
Portrait of a woman, or / copper, 7.1 x 5.3 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Portrait of Cosimo II, or / copper, 5.4 x 4.2 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Manly portrait, or / copper, 4.3 x 5.6 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Manly portrait, or / copper, 4.8 x 6.2 cm, Uffizi, Florence
Portrait of a woman, o / tin, 5.5 x 6.9 cm, Uffizi, Florence