Excerpts from the writings left by the painter Ernani Costantini   Drawing sketch of Hagar and the angel   Sketch for Hagar
    The painter left various written documents relating to the pictorial cycle on the Women of the Bible, in which he describes and comments on his own work as he carries it out.
Passages from a selection of different texts are included, in particular those which are most significant in their portrayal of the artist's enthusiasm and tireless efforts and which, with their apt words, keep the passion of those moments alive.
Notes for a diary of the elaboration of the cycle From Eve to Mary – the Women of the Bible
Extracts from the painter's typewritten documents
(1983 – 1984)
drawing sketch of Judith beheading Holophernes   Three brief sketches for Judith
drawing study of Judith beheading Holophernes    
drawing sketch of the body of Judith    
drawing study of the head of Judith
drawing studies of the drapery and the head of Judith
Two pages of studies for Judith
  8th March 1984
Yesterday, in the early evening, it was already dark, the 12 canvases arrived: a lovely set of white canvases and considering that their total surface area adds up to about fifty square metres I must say I find them a little daunting. However I have already embarked on this journey now, I have been working on it for years and although it is true that it scares me a little it is also true that – as is often the case –I am irresistibly attracted by it. […]

12th March 1984
The drawings I have done in preparation for attacking the canvases are scattered all over the floor of the studio. There are big and small ones, some definitive and others no more than rough sketches. I will have to decide which will be the first of the 12 women to be committed to canvas. I think it will be Judith because she was the first to appear to me in my waking dream and also because M. has lent me a superb silk dress … in a spectacular Tuareg blue embroidered with silver. When I saw it at her house, I immediately imagined my Judith adorned in that masterpiece. Strangely, the preliminary drawing is less beautiful and conclusive. But I know why. I intend in fact to have R. with her regal stature, put it on, and then I will paint it from life like an N.M. so as to avoid spoiling the pleasure and desire with over complex preparation.

15th March 1984
With my mind set on those biblical events which I now know by heart and the live figure before me I feel an emotion that words cannot describe. It is exciting and wonderful to mix the cobalt blue with the phthalo, the Prussian blue with the silver white and the alizarin to create the Jewish lady's dress. […]
    19th March 1984
I turned Judith towards the wall. I don't want to see her anymore for a few days. I have placed a canvas measuring one metre by two on the easel on which I intend to paint Eve. I sketched out a study in charcoal a few years ago, but I think it will be better if I do another one which is more suitable for this task tomorrow when R. comes. Meanwhile as I re-read the Bible, I am further convinced of the idea of the absolute unity of the male-female unit. I don't know Hebrew or any other ancient languages but I think the exact translation of that passage which describes the creation of man should be: “male and female he created them”. It is a question of being human. […]
  drawing studies of the hand of Judith and of the drapery of Shulamith’s lover   Studies for Judith and Shulammite
    12th April 1984
Two full mornings of work on Shulammite. It is almost finished. I ought to be happy because I've obtained (or almost) the atmosphere that I wanted. While I was painting the girl's body from life, R. fell asleep and I was able to work in absolute silence, while in my head I repeated the verses of the Canticle: “…Ah, you are beautiful, my love; / ah, you are beautiful; / your eyes are doves. […] I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, / by the gazelles or the wild does: / do not stir up or awaken love / until it is ready!”. When R. woke up she looked at what I had painted and said (with satisfaction) that “this figure will be the stuff of dreams”. R. feels in some way like a co-author of these paintings […]
    7th June 1984
I am reaching the end of the work I had planned. Out of the 12 paintings which will make up the cycle, 8 are just about finished, one is at an advanced stage and the others are already underway. Out of the paintings selected the following are still to do: Salome, Mary Magdalene and Mary Mother of Jesus. Of course, from a conceptual point of view, the most difficult will be Mary of Nazareth. I wouldn't want to do the usual devoted Mary because that is not my purpose on this occasion. I feel on the contrary, that I must give her a more realistic appearance, more earthly but without losing that sense of her spirituality. In fact, I want to bestow her with spirituality through her earthliness. […]

25th June 1984
We are at the end of June and I am starting to feel a bit tired. I agree with Lina that I should suspend my work in order to have a good rest for a while. […] All these figures – those already painted and those who exist only in my thoughts as yet – have become something of an obsession. I keep seeing them in before me, they get mixed up together. In addition I am tempted by regrets, and tormented by the desire to make corrections which would probably turn out to be useless. No, I must take a break for a bit. […] Here's Lina. Now we will plan our departure on a lovely holiday.
Pause, back in September.
drawing sketches of Herod’s banquet   Sketches for Salome
drawing study of the head drapery of Mary Magdalene   Study for Mary Magdalene
    Study for Rebecca: Isaac   drawing study of the drapery of Isaac            
    [No other diary entries have been found from the period leading up to the completion of the twelve canvases from September of that same year until March 1985.]            
  © Famiglia Costantini