Monthly Archives: October 2011

Judith gets sassy

Ghirlandaio’s full name was Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi.   of course, he needed a nickname.    but nothing too fancy.   “Il Ghirlandaio” means garland-maker and came from Domenico’s father – a goldsmith who created metallic garland-like necklaces worn by Florentine women.  i was hoping it had something to do with chocolate.

at the request of Pope Sixtus IV in 1483, Ghirlandaio contributed a wall fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Vocation of the Apostles.    his real claim-to-fame:  having Michelangelo among his many apprentices.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, "Judith with her Maidservant," 1489, wood, 2.75 x 2.25 ft, Gemäldegalerie - Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany


in this portrayal of the decampment, Ghirlandaio has the hapless Maid taking a significant risk with the basket atop her mop.    significant risk because Holofernes’ dead head is both  (a) extremely large and  (b) extremely green.  but it appears she has little choice because Judith is giving the Maid some sass.   just look at her, with her hand on her hip and impatiently tapping her foot in those hideous red socks – again.

Judith: Okay, i know the head is getting gross and all, but could you please do something to keep it from smelling.

Maid: Er … what did you have in mind? We left the Febreeze back in Bethulia.

Judith: True. I don’t know how to staunch the stench. How about you put the basket on top of your head so at least the odor doesn’t fly in my face.

Maid: Top of my head? Seriously?  What if the rotting slime leaks out of the basket?

Judith: (hand on hip) Yes, seriously. And don’t think I’m not doing my fair share. I AM carrying this heavy fauchion.

Maid: How could I forget the way you are waving it around with the pointy end in my direction.

Judith: (sternly) You had better watch your step, missy. That pointy end will be uncomfortably up your ass if you have to chase that head around when you trip and it rolls out.

 … oops.

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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Cacciatore


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Judith in the Sistine Chapel

I give up … now Michelangelo did it.   Put the bag in a basket On Her Head.   (sigh) If Michelangelo painted it on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, then it must be okay.

Appearing on the Sistine Chapel is the height of fame in the Renaissance World of art.  In the World of Art at any point in the timeline of Western history.  And here is Judith with God and everybody.   Not only that, but Michelangelo supposedly used his own likeness for the head of Holofernes.  Just a little Renaissance humor (yuk, yuk).   But that personal touch gives Judith a special significance.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Ceiling and South Wall, 1508-12, fresco , Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Italy

Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Judith (L) and David (R), South Wall,” 1508-12, fresco pendentive , Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Italy

Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1508-12, fresco pendentive , Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Italy

Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Judith with the head of Holofernes (detail),” 1508-12, fresco pendentive, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Italy

The Sistine Chapel is the large Papal Chapel built between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV.   Painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 at the commission of Pope Julius II, the ceiling is one of the most renowned artworks of the High Renaissance.  The paintings on the ceiling are part of a decorative scheme within the Chapel, which includes the large fresco The Last Judgment on the North sanctuary wall.  Nine scenes from the Book of Genesis are central to the ceiling decoration – the Creation of Adam being the best known and most often imitated.   The scheme is completed by four large corner pendentives illustrating dramatic Biblical stories, that includes Judith along with Moses, David and Haman.  The pendentive of Judith is located on the left corner of the South Wall – opposite the Day of Judgement.

The other two stories, those of David and Judith, were often linked in Renaissance art, particularly by Florentine artists as they demonstrated the overthrow of tyrants, a popular subject in the Republic. In this image, the shepherd boy, David, has brought down the towering Goliath with his sling, but the giant is alive and is trying to rise as David forces his head down to chop it off… The depiction of Judith and Holofernes has an equally gruesome detail. As Judith loads the enemy’s head onto a basket carried by her maid and covers it with a cloth, she looks towards the tent, apparently distracted by the limbs of the decapitated corpse threshing about. (1)

Yup, even stuck high up in an obscure corner, Judith is disturbingly brutal.

(1) O’Malley, John, The Theology behind Michelangelo’s Ceiling in The Sistine Chapel, 1986. ed. Massimo Giacometti.

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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Glory


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Judith in Cincinnati!!!

OMG!! THERE IS A JUDITH IN CINCINNATI and she looks like this –

Sandro Botticelli & [Filippino Lippi]: Judith Returning to Bethulia

Sandro Botticelli, “The Return of Judith to Bethulia,” 1469-1470, Tempera on panel, 29.2 x 21.6 cm, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, USA

How could I not know this?   I will have to run – not walk – to my local art museum and pay homage to this masterpiece. in my own backyard.

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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Glory


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Judith and the basket

I am aware this is Botticelli and he had a huge impact on the history of art but … Why, why, WHY does the Maid have the bloody bag ON HER HEAD?!

Sandro Botticelli, “The Return of Judith to Bethulia,” 1470–1472, Oil on panel, 31 x 24 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

I know, I know — it is a cultural thing.  Women around the world carry bundles on their heads.  But not dripping, bloody slabs of meat!   Not freshly severed heads!!  Aside from the smell, imagine the putrid ooze from the bag running down on your forehead and into your eyes.   Who Does This???

Other than that, this is a much better example of Botticelli’s talent than the previous Judith.  Elegant lines, detailed backdrop, improved proportions.   She looks a lot like Birth of Venus – except for that freaking severed head in a basket.

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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Gory


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Judith makes an exit

It is now time for decampment.   The flight from the scene of the crime and on the road to Bethulia.

Sandro Botticelli, Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes, 1495–1500, Tempera on panel, 36.5 x 20 cm, Uffizi, Florence, Italy

And the perfect place to start is with one of the originals of the Renaissance, Botticelli.   Also known as Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (sure, that’s easy for you to say), the nickname “Botticelli” means “little barrel” and was originally bestowed on his older brother (who must have been rotund), and for some reason the name was passed on (1).   I hate it when that happens.

In Florence as apprentice to Fra Filippo Lippi, he learned an intimate and detailed manner of painting.   He was influenced also by Masaccio’s style – a naturalistic style that employed perspective (such as vanishing point in art for the first time) and chiaroscuro for a convincing sense of three-dimensionality.   This combination gave Botticelli a very distinctive style:  his portraits seemed to have a melancholy or sad characteristic to them.   also distinctive was Botticelli’s combination of ideas that were both Christian and pagan in one painting.

By 1475, Botticelli had the Medici as patrons, and in 1481 he was commissioned to join Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli (the most celebrated painters of the day) to paint frescoes for the Sistine Chapel.  His two most famous paintings – Primavera and Birth of Venus – were executed around this time, possibly for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici.

In later life, Botticelli became a follower of Savonarola, a charismatic monk who often spoke of death and God’s wrath upon the people and stressed giving up all worldly things.   It was rumored that Botticelli burned several of his mythological paintings in the great Florentine “Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1497, but the record is not clear.   Art historian Vasari wrote that Botticelli “was so ardent a partisan that he was thereby induced to desert his painting, and, having no income to live on, fell into very great distress.  For this reason, persisting in his attachment to that party, and becoming a Piagnone* he abandoned his work.” (3)

Botticelli’s art fell into disfavor during the High Renaissance until the late 19th century; since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting.

One theme that Botticelli used over and over again was the idea of a very sad young girl that was detached from her surroundings (2).    This Judith seems to be a prime example of that attitude – gazing without emotion at Holofernes’ grotesque head.    However, this depiction of Judith is not considered to be one of his best endeavors.   Coming towards the end of his career, it is disproportionate in many respects.   The faceless maid is just plain creepy, sneaking around in the shadow of the tent like a wraith.   But mainly, Holofernes’ head is way too small compared to Judith’s dimensions.

At least, that’s what she said.

(1)  Patrick, Renaissance and Reformation vol 1, 2007.
(2)  History Link 101: Botticelli
(3)  Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 1550, 2nd ed., 1568

* “Weeper” or “Mourner”, as the repentant followers of Savonarola were called.

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Book of Judith, Chapter 13

11 Then said Judith afar off, to the watchmen at the gate, Open, open now the gate: God, even our God, is with us, to shew his power yet in Jerusalem, and his forces against the enemy, as he hath even done this day.

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Story


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Judith goes exploring (ii)

Once the Grand Loop of the Mid-West is complete,  this Grand Tour of the East requires some airline reservations and a few train tickets.   And a lot of time.

Day 9:  A plane ticket to Washington, D.C for the National Gallery of Art and a Mantegna.
  And the permanent collection of paintings that spans Middle Ages to present day – the Italian Renaissance collection (Botticelli, Giorgione, Bellini, Titian, Raphael and the only Leonardo painting in the Americas), other European collections (Grünewald, Cranach the Elder, Van der Weyden, Dürer, Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, Ingres, and Delacroix), the collection of sculpture and decorative arts (Rodin and Degas).   That could take a day or two.

Mon-Sat 10 am – 5 pm; Sun 11 – 6 pm 

Day 10:  From DC’s Union Station, a train ticket will get me to Baltimore’s Penn Station and a bus towards 3 Inner Harbor (5 mins, 5 stops) will get me to Walters Art Museum for a Bigot and Sirani.  Also a Vasters‘ pendant.

Although there is much to see here, I will probably linger among late 19th century French academic masters and Impressionists – Monet, Sisley, Manet, Sèvres porcelain, Art Nouveau jewelry by René Lalique, Fabergé, and Tiffany, as well as 19th-century European art by Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix, Millet, Rousseau, Gérôme and Alma-Tadema.

Mon-Tues – closed; Wed-Sun 10 am – 5 pm

Day 11:  A train ticket to Philadelphia 30th Street Station will give me the option to walk or take the 38 Bus to the The Philadelphia Art Museum – home to over 225,000 objects, spanning the creative achievements of the Western world since the first century AD and those of Asia since the third millennium BC.   My goal:  stained glass from Sainte-Chapelle.  After I run up the front steps like Rocky.

Mon – closed;  Tues-Sun: 10 am – 5 pm;   Fri: 10 am –  8:45 pm

Day 12:  A detour by train is required to Princeton, NJ in order to see the amazing Judith by Wtewael in the Princeton University Art Museum, by transfer to the shuttle (the “Dinky”) to the Princeton Station,

Mon:  closed;   Tues – Sat:  10am to 5pm.;  Thurs:  10am to 10pm;   Sun:  1pm to 5pm 

 Back to the train and on to NYC‘s Penn Station.   Big Apple, here I come.

Day 13:  I think i will spring for a hotel and a cab to the first stop: The Metropolitan Museum of Art where I can find five Judith’sSheldon tapestryCranach the Elder, Tenier the Younger, Stanzione, and Constant.  Among all the other treasures at the MMA.

Mon – closed; Tues-Thurs, Sun 9:30 am – 5:30 pm;  Fri-Sat 9:30 am – 9:00 pm

Day 14:  But there is more in The City:  a few blocks up the street is the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum – which houses 250,000 design objects including lace depicting Judith slaying Holofernes.  Sure, lace that depicts a beheading … that’s something every woman would love to wear.

Mon-Sat  10 am – 5 pm; Sun  noon – 6 pm

A trip is also required to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) to visit the incomparable Lovis Corinth.  Along with important and familiar works such as: van Gogh, (OMG!! Starry Night), Matisse, Dalí, Mondrian, Rousseau, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Gauguin, Monet, Matisse, Cézanne, Pollock, Wyeth, Kahlo.  And the incomparable Cindy Sherman.   Dang, that list makes me reel.

Tues – closed;  Wed-Mon  10:30 am – 5:30 pm;  Fri  10:30 am – 8 pm

Then there is Berkeley College Gallery – not to be confused with a school in CA – where I can view Sailor‘s Judith.  Glad they are open late.

Mon – Fri:   9am to 7pm;   Sat:   9am to 3pm

 Day 15:  And somehow I must get to Brooklyn Museum to see the Judy Chicago’s A Place At The Table.  And weirdly coincidental, a statue by Giovanni della Robbia.

From Penn Station 1/2/3/LIRR, I can take the Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 Train, get off at Eastern Pkwy – Brooklyn Museum Station 2/3 for about $5 round trip.  I love public transportation.

Mon-Tues – closed;  Wed-Sun  11 am – 6 pm;  Thurs  11 am – 10 pm

Day 16:  Back to Penn Station, I can get a train ticket to Hartford, CT (2 hours, 20 min) and walk half a mile to Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art – the oldest public art museum in the United States.  And a chance to visit my first Gentileschi – Orazio, that is.  And my first Caravaggio, St. Francis in Ecstasy.

Mon-Tues – closed;  Wed-Fri  11 am – 5 pm;  Sat-Sun  10 am – 5 pm;  first Thurs  11 am – 8 pm 

Day 17:  The longest leg is 4.5 hours on a train from Hartford to Boston, then a quick walk to the Green Line “E” train to the stop for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  There are three Judith’s in this museum:  a Massys, another Stanzione and another statue by Giovanni della Robbia.  Might have to look into the Egyptian, Chinese and Japanese exhibits which are some of the largest in the world.

Sat – Tue  10 am – 4:45 pm;  Wed–Fri 10 am – 9:45 pm

Day 18:  For the side trip to Wellesley from South Station, I need to take the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail for 30 minutes to the Wellesley Square stop (one-way fare is $5.25 purchased at South Station).  Up the stairs and call a taxi for $4 to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.  On the grounds of highly selective women’s liberal arts college – setting for Mona Lisa Smile – this museum houses a Sellaer.

Mon – closed;  Tue-Sat  11 am – 5 pm;  Wed  11 am – 8 pm;  Sun  12 pm – 4 pm

Day 19:  Back to Boston and then home.   To rest.

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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Exploring


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Now for something completely different (XV)

Hey Oogie. Yes you, Ogden Pringle. Get a clue.

A Date With Judy (1950, vol. 15)

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This is just too cute:  Oogie sings “Judaline” from the movie “A Date With Judy


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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in something completely different


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