Giuseppe Vermiglio
(Milan 1587 – 1635)


Judith beheading holofernes 


oil on canvas
108 x 170 cm. (42.5 x 66.9 in.)
c. 1610

“I consider him the best painter in oils of which the ancient state of Piedmont could boast, and one of the best Italian artists of his times.”

Luigi Lanzi, Storia Pittorica della Italia, dal risorgimento delle Belle Arti fin presso al fine del XVIII secolo, vol. V, 3rd ed. (Bassano, 1809), pp. 377-8.

The life of the Caravaggist painter Giuseppe Vermiglio remains obscured. He was likely born in the small Italian town of Alessandria in 1587, yet the earliest known reference dates to 1604 and relates to an apprenticeship in the workshop of the Perugian painter Adriano da Monteleone in Rome. Like Caravaggio (1571-1610) in his tumultuous years, Vermiglio seemed to have a talent for trouble and got arrested on several occasions for illegally carrying arms and being involved in brawls.1 His first dated work in Rome is the Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1612), the only known Roman altarpiece that Vermiglio painted, which is a clear example of Vermiglio’s ties to the Caravaggesque manner.2


Throughout his Roman period, Vermiglio is seen as the artist who was the most prolific and faithful follower of Caravaggio’s work, to such an extent that it is believed that Vermiglio had direct access to certain collections in order to create versions for his patrons. The present Judith Beheading Holofernes is no exception; it is the closest interpretation of Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (Palazzo Barbarini), which indicates Vermiglio must have had rare access to the collection of the otherwise private Ottavio Costa (1554-1639), a wealthy banker and important Caravaggio collector.3 This network of contacts and patrons suggests that Vermiglio was a respected and sought-after artist in his day. By 1620, Vermiglio appears to have returned to the north of Italy, and was married in Milan in 1621. His northern career brought a different group of patrons, mainly Carthusians, and with that a change of style, incorporating more Neo-Renaissance Academism into his Caravaggesque manner. The works linked to Vermiglio from his Milan period show the involvement of different hands, which indicates that he ran an active workshop. It is unsure when Vermiglio died, but he certainly stayed active until at least 1635.4

1. Jacopo Stoppa, “Campione d’Italia. Giuseppe Vermiglio,” in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 142, No. 1173 (Dec. 2000), 797.
2. Grassi Studio, Italian Paintings. With an unpublished Judith Beheading Holofernes by Giuseppe Vermiglio, TEFAF 2015, 120.
3. M.C. Terzaghi, “Il San Giovanni Battista e I Caravaggio Costa. Novità e riflessioni”, in W.Siemoni ed., Da Caravaggio, il San Giovanni Battista Costa e le sue copie (2016), n.p.
4. Stoppa, “Campione d’Italia. Giuseppe Vermiglio,” 798.