Tuesday 6 December 2022

Tuesday 6th December - Judith

 Today has been really busy as it is my lovely daughter's 17th birthday so there has been much rushing about and celebrating.  As I am rapidly running out of energy and daylight, I'm going with one of my favourite images from Telling Tales, the exhibition that is currently running at the Russell-Cotes in Bournemouth...

Judith (1887) Charles Landelle

Actually, I've definitely pulled a punch on this one as I've picked a picture of Judith, the Biblical hero who hacked off Holofernes' head, which is remarkably bloodless.  For example, I could have gone with this one...
Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614-18) Artemisia Gentileschi

Lawks, that's squirty. Or how about this one...?

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99) Caravaggio

Crikey, wet spill in aisle three! Not to mention some completely unnecessary nudity...

Judith (1928) Franz von Stuck

Put some clothes on, Love, before you lop a boob off. For goodness sake.  The reason I love Landelle's rendition of Judith is that she smoulders like a silent movie star and it is all about her intent and purpose.  We are in the role of her maid, exchanging meaningful glances as she draws the bed curtain back to reveal our victim. She is about to end a war, defeat a tyrant invader and prove how great God is by hacking off a bloke's head.  You can see how artists would embrace the subject - the idea of women doing the jobs of men, defeating men at their own game, suddenly seems relevant in a world of suffrage and women stepping out of the home and into the world.  This heroic act by Judith is seen as both sexy and threatening, Judith is both a desirable and a terrible woman.  While earlier images of her are very visceral and bloody, the Victorians tended to show her as a sexy presence, about to do the deed but not actually getting blood over the drapery.  We don't doubt for a moment she is going to do it, but she doesn't need to get her hands dirty quite yet.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the lack of head slicing occurs in paintings that would be bought by men who would probably identify with Holofernes.

Jael (c.1870-90) Orazio Andreoni

Jael from behind, note the tent peg in her hand...

Also in the Russell-Cotes is a sculpture of Jael, another Biblical Hero who saved her nation by doing in a powerful man in a grim manner.  Jael drove a tent peg through his head while he slept. Interestingly there are very few depictions of Jael in Victorian art, which surprised me as Judith is remarkably popular and they are very similar stories. Speaking of which...

The Peacock Skirt (from Salome) (1896) Aubrey Beardsley

Often Judith gets mistake for Salome, what with the beheading and everything, and we know how much the Victorians, especially the later Victorians, loved a bit of Salome.  But there is something very stoical about Judith, very responsible and strong and a force to be reckoned with.  She is the epitome of a leader, painted in the time of a strong female leader. I wonder if Queen Victoria ever thought of herself as Judith, a leader willing to do anything for her people, especially with a ruddy big sword? One thing is for certain, Judith remains one of my favourite subjects because of how discomforting she is.

Go get 'em, Judith!

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Judith by Landelle - she is certainly someone you would want on your team. However, I have a problem with her dress, as there is no way that will stay up during the beheading. I think she needs something more reliable than a flimsy bit of silk.
    I think Theda Bara must have pinched the dark eye makeup and direct gaze from her...
    Best wishes


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx