Judith throws it down

10 Dec

As much as I like Impressionism and Postmodern art, I am still a sucker for a clean, crisp, realistic illustration.   Especially if it features Orientalism.

Charles Bonatto Minella , “Judith shows the people,” 1877, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Torino, Italy

This is a lovely depiction of Judith standing on the steps of Bethulia.  I imagine that we are seeing her as the crowd does.  She is stately and serene and somber, shimmering in her white gown shot with gold.  The red sash dripping from her waist and red tassel at the end of her shawl evoke the bloodshed in the decapitation (although there is no stain on the white of her dress).  In a gesture of her passion and sincerity, her hand is brought to her bosom.  She may be preparing to speak.

The maid sits at her feet, wrapped in a dark blue robe with white stars and looking weary.  Perhaps she expects Judith’s speech will be a bore.

The bag containing Holofernes’ head is flung to the ground.  The meaning is unclear:  does it further elevated Judith in her position of triumph?  Is she disdainful of the cowardice of the Bethulians – and this gesture says “Here – come and get it, you bunch of sissies”?   Or is she just tired of dragging the bag around?

An expert comment on this piece highlights the introspective and dreamlike tone:

One of the very first works shown by the artist at the Promotrice exhibitions, the Judith reveals academic influences that have however been filtered in a poetic and internalised manner. While the basic structure recalls historical and orientalist paintings, it abandons their lack of concrete descriptivism. A skilled draughtsman and acute observer, the painter reveals his interest in minor details, with which he constructs a setting that does not break the artistic unity of the painting, but rather reinforces its biblical theme. The figures are isolated, silent and meditative. The elegance of the drawing and the dreamlike atmosphere created by the use of subdued colours shot through  with bright light have been compared to the painting of the English Pre-Raphaelites (1).

Sure.  I would probably feel dreamy after committing a heinous murder and mutilation.  Or maybe I would just be in shock.

(1) Gallery d’ Art Moderne: Caterina Thellung, Giuditta si presenta al popolo

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Glory


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