Judith says “I Told You So”

24 Nov

Can you hear her singing? Nanny-nanny-boo-boo. I-y-i-y-told you.

unknown, Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493, 45.2 x 32.5 cm, Morse Library, Beloit College, Beloit, WIsconsin, USA

This is a woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle – an illustrated story of human history as told in the Bible.  It appeared in 1493, written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel and translated to German by Georg Alt – and is one of the best-documented early printed books and one of the first to successfully use both illustrations and text in more varied ways than anything previously been attempted.  About 400 Latin and 300 German copies made it to the twenty-first century. The larger hand colored illustrations were often sold separately as prints (1).

The depiction of Judith in this woodcut shows her triumph in displaying the severed head to the people of Bethulia.  I love the colors – they are rather jolly.  The pink tutu.  The aqua bodice with the draping yellow sleeves.  And the fabulous Attor de Gibet  (yes, it took an hour of searching to find the correct terminology in Kats Hats) – that are horns of complicated starched white linen or gauze veils adorned with jewels, gold or silver embellishments.   The slight smile upon her face and the lack of effort in waving Holofernes’ bloody head around on that sword with one hand.

Yes, I hear her singing that universal taunting melody.  Neener-neener-neener, Nana-nana-nère, Ich habe einen Kopf !!

(1) “About this book – Latin and German Editions”, Beloit College Morse Library
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Book of Judith, Chapter 13

12 Now when the men of her city heard her voice, they made haste to go down to the gate of their city, and they called the elders of the city.
13 And then they ran all together, both small and great, for it was strange unto them that she was come: so they opened the gate, and received them, and made a fire for a light, and stood round about them.
14 Then she said to them with a loud voice, Praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he hath not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but hath destroyed our enemies by mine hands this night.
15 So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman.
16 As the Lord liveth, who hath kept me in my way that I went, my countenance hath deceived him to his destruction, and yet hath he not committed sin with me, to defile and shame me.

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Gory


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