And Judith has a place at the table.
The Dinner Party is an art installation in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, depicting a massive ceremonial banquet on a triangular table with 39 place settings for important woman who previously did not have a so-called “place at the table” of history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and porcelain plates painted with “vulvar and butterfly form motifs” in the style of the woman being celebrated.
And a Star Trek vibe: “Captain’s Log, Stardate 2011 – Lieutenant Uhura takes over the bridge.”
Each leg or “Wing” of the triangular table represents a different period in history. Judith is seated on the first Wing (From Prehistory to the Roman Empire) between Hatshepsut and Shappo. With a plate depicting a chili red, avocado green and white vulva. More yum!
“(A) feminist strategy encountered in The Dinner Party is the celebration of vaginal iconography, which is, of course, the most controversial of its components. Chicago specifically chose to use vaginal or “central core” imagery for each of the plates in order to demonstrate that the one thing that united these forgotten historical subjects at the table was that they all had the same genitalia. Her aim was to reclaim and celebrate that mark of women’s “otherness,” replacing connotations of inferiority with those of pride, and to create a “new visual language” with which to express women’s experience.” (1)
Hmmm … sounds to me like Pilates Meets Meets DaVinci Code.
From the description of the exhibit:
“Judith’s place setting combines symbols of Middle Eastern traditions with symbols of femininity. Historically, Jewish women utilized the needlework techniques of their nation of residence. The runner, therefore, evokes the intricate headdress known as a gargush, traditionally worn by a Yemenite bride. The gold threading, cords, and coins in the runner suggest the Middle Eastern custom of displaying the bride’s dowry to demonstrate her family’s wealth and her value as a commodity.” as we learned, this is the shatweh.
“Central to the runner is a bold, triangular belt buckle similar to those used as ornamentation on ancient Hebrew clothing. The triangle is used here as a symbol of Judith’s strength and her loyalty to her sex. On top of the runner, appearing vertically on either side of Judith’s plate, are Hebrew letters proclaiming Judith’s bravery on behalf of the people of Bethulia. Translated they read, “Judith, heroine to her people.” Judith’s name is slashed by a sword, which represents the weapon used to kill Holofernes.”
“Judith’s plate features a floral design with leaves, whose edges create curved dark and light triangles like those on the front of the runner. The combination of dark and bright colors echoes the colors of the runner and the dramatic play of light and dark in Gentileschi’s Baroque painting depicting the event.”
I thought it looked like a Venus Flytrap participating in a Mexican Fiesta. And I thought it had very little resemblance to Gentileschi, as we shall see later. Which is probably why I am writing a lowly blog instead of being paid as an art critic.
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Book of Judith, Chapter 11
1 THEN said Holofernes unto her, Woman, be of good comfort, fear not in thine heart: for I never hurt any that was willing to serve Nabuchodonosor, the king of all the earth.
2 Now therefore, if thy people that dwelleth in the mountains had not set light by me, I would not have lifted up my spear against them: but they have done these things to themselves.
3 But now tell me wherefore thou art fled from them, and art come unto us: for thou art come for safeguard; be of good comfort, thou shalt live this night, and hereafter:
4 For none shall hurt thee, but entreat thee well, as they do the servants of king Nabuchodonosor my lord.
5 Then Judith said unto him, Receive the words of thy servant, and suffer thine handmaid to speak in thy presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord this night.
6 And if thou wilt follow the words of thine handmaid, God will bring the thing perfectly to pass by thee; and my lord shall not fail of his purposes.
7 As Nabuchodonosor king of all the earth liveth, and as his power liveth, who hath sent thee for the upholding of every living thing: for not only men shall serve him by thee, but also the beasts of the field, and the cattle, and the fowls of the air, shall live by thy power under Nabuchodonosor and all his house.
8 For we have heard of thy wisdom and thy policies, and it is reported in all the earth, that thou only art excellent in all the kingdom, and mighty in knowledge, and wonderful in feats of war.
9 Now as concerning the matter, which Achior did speak in thy council, we have heard his words; for the men of Bethulia saved him, and he declared unto them all that he had spoken unto thee.
10 Therefore, O lord and governor, respect not his word; but lay it up in thine heart, for it is true: for our nation shall not be punished, neither can sword prevail against them, except they sin against their God.
11 And now, that my lord be not defeated and frustrate of his purpose, even death is now fallen upon them, and their sin hath overtaken them, wherewith they will provoke their God to anger whensoever they shall do that which is not fit to be done:
12 For their victuals fail them, and all their water is scant, and they have determined to lay hands upon their cattle, and purposed to consume all those things, that God hath forbidden them to eat by his laws:
13 And are resolved to spend the firstfruits of the the tenths of wine and oil, which they had sanctified, and reserved for the priests that serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God; the which things it is not lawful for any of the people so much as to touch with their hands.
14 For they have sent some to Jerusalem, because they also that dwell there have done the like, to bring them a licence from the senate.
15 Now when they shall bring them word, they will forthwith do it, and they shall be given to thee to be destroyed the same day.
16 Wherefore I thine handmaid, knowing all this, am fled from their presence; and God hath sent me to work things with thee, whereat all the earth shall be astonished, and whosoever shall hear it.
17 For thy servant is religious, and serveth the God of heaven day and night: now therefore, my lord, I will remain with thee, and thy servant will go out by night into the valley, and I will pray unto God, and he will tell me when they have committed their sins:
18 And I will come and shew it unto thee: then thou shalt go forth with all thine army, and there shall be none of them that shall resist thee.
19 And I will lead thee through the midst of Judea, until thou come before Jerusalem; and I will set thy throne in the midst thereof; and thou shalt drive them as sheep that have no shepherd, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth at thee: for these things were told me according to my foreknowledge, and they were declared unto me, and I am sent to tell thee.
20 Then her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; and they marvelled at her wisdom, and said,
21 There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face, and wisdom of words.
22 Likewise Holofernes said unto her. God hath done well to send thee before the people, that strength might be in our hands and destruction upon them that lightly regard my lord.
23 And now thou art both beautiful in thy countenance, and witty in thy words: surely if thou do as thou hast spoken thy God shall be my God, and thou shalt dwell in the house of king Nabuchodonosor, and shalt be renowned through the whole earth.