Judith, Reni and Stumpy

20 Aug

A moment of confusion always ensues when examining this artwork.   Initially, it looks like Holofernes has his head and Judith is leaning on him — maybe even affectionately giving him a pat on the noggin.   Then I realize, crimes!  His head is detached and Judith is simply resting it on his shoulder.   His Cold.   Dead.   Shoulder.

Guido Reni, “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” 1625, oil on canvas, 159 x 106 cm, Sedlmayer Collection, Geneva, Switzerland

As i go through this journey of art history, I am learning that even some exceptional artists have unexceptional works.   Guido Reni was considered an exceptional artist — a renowned frescoist and painter patronized by the Borghese family — but this Judith must not have been an exceptional work.   I surmise that because (a) it is not in a museum and (b) it seems to have been auctioned several times and (c) it is not mentioned in a long catalog of his works.

I mean …  i guess …  it is kind of …  uhhh.    Maybe if I was not saturated with so many other depictions of Judith, so many other headless bodies, so many other supportive maids then I could get more excited about this painting.   But look at Judith herself.   Even she has herself propped up with the sword on one side and the head on the other — like she is totally bored.   She seems to be saying “Hey, God.  Are we done yet?”   Or perhaps “So this is what you wanted, right?”    Or most likely “Where is the maid with that bag so we can ditch this joint and i can get back to my own bed?”

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Distracted


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