Monthly Archives: January 2012

Judith and the Vegetarian

This guy was either crazy or brilliant.   Or maybe both.

To start, the traditional early work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.   Stained glass windows of the Duomo in Milan.

Giusppe Arcimbolodo, stained glass windows, 1596, Duomo, Milan, Italy

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, “Judith,” 1556, stained glass, Duomo, Milan, Italy




Nice but … I would like to have seen his mature style applied to the Judith story.   With fruits and vegetables.



Giuseppe Arcimbolodo, “Flora,” 1588, Oil on wood, 73 x 56 cm, private collection

Guiseppe Arcimboldo, “Vertumnus,” 1591, oil on wood, Skoklosters Slott, Balsta, Sweden

Sadly, Arcimboldo did not use this style to depict the story of Judith. It could have been juicy!! (yuk yuk)

However, he did create a plethora of portraits using botanicals, fruits and vegetables in fanciful and imaginative ways.  As one might expect, his work was not widely respected in the Late Renaissance.   It was not until the 20th Century that Arcimboldo was rediscovered by the Modernists and Surrealists, and his ideas were brought to the forefront.

In fact, the Goth Judith we saw yesterday looks very much like Flora.

And in case any readers are fascinated with animated films (or under the age of 12),  Arcimboldo’s imagery was used for “Boldo the Soup Genie” in the film, The Tale of Despereaux.

Bon appetite!

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Cacciatore


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Judith goes Goth

Not Italian Gothic.    Gothic as in post-Punk dark-romance macabre.

Mia Araujo, “Judith & Holofernes,” 2009, Acrylic on wood, 12 x 16 in, private sale

The artist herself describes the painting:

… the client wanted a ‘gothic’ piece, so I did an extra dark take on the Judith and Holofernes story. I wanted to represent the King’s decapitation in a different way than we see in most representations, so I had a stand-in statue for him being overgrown with flowers. (1)

The gothic elements:  the gargoyles in the right corner, the large sun-bleached cow skull in Judith’s coif and the numerous other human skulls in the scene, the lighted candles in her hair, the demons and naked revelers who appear to be watching from hell in the upper left,  the cemetery crosses and the woman crying bloody tears atop Judith’s head, the griffin on her crown and the blood red roses at her temples, and her necklace that resembles a Black Widow Spider.   In comparison, Holofernes as a statue covered in flowers seems very benign.

Yup, she is ready for Día de los Muertos.

(1) Mia’s Blog, 12/5/2009

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Cacciatore


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Judith goes exploring (x)

Take a big step south … or sud, as they say en Francais.

Day 70:  Nantes is in Central France, not really Southern France.   But it is south of Brest.   And I could travel there by canal barge – but that might take a week.  So 4 and 1/2 hours by train does not seem bad. Arriving mid-day at the SNCF station, I can exit gare nord and  take Bus 12 which deposits me at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes.    This museum has a two-for-one-visit:   Spinelli and da Vezzo are both here with their depictions of Judith.  Also four works by Georges De La Tour and by Évariste Vital Luminais, as well as a tres interesant portrait by Jean-Léon Jérôme.  How long have Furries been around?

Tues – closed;  Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun:  10 am – 6 pm;   Thurs10 am – 8 pm

Collecting my luggage from the station, I can be in Saumur in one hour to find a cozy bed in the Hotel de Londres

Day 71:   … and awake like a princess.  Because today involves the Château de Saumur and the search for a fork shaped like Judith – in a fairy tale castle overlooking the confluence of the Loire and Thouet rivers.  If i am not careful, I could get caught up in the re-enactment of the Dukes of Anjou.  I have enough trouble with time as it is.

(Apr-June)   Tues-Sun: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm;   
(July-Aug) Mon-Sun: 10am. to 6:30pm;
(Sept-Nov) Tues-Sun: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm;  Dec – closed

About an hour west is Tours.   And about 4 blocks from the train is Hotel du Manor.  Tres charmant with a walled terrace.   Walking 4 minutes up the Rue Jules Simon, I can look for the stuffed elephant – killed for madness during a  “Barnum & Bailey” parade in 1902 – at the entrance to the Musée des beaux-arts de Tours.   I‘m looking for Judith by an unknown artist.  There can’t be many unknown artists, do you think?

Tues – closed;    Mon, Wed-Sun:    9am to 12:45pm and 2pm to 6pm

Day 72:  In a little over two hours I can arrive in Nievre (aka Nevers).   Where the Musée Frédéric-Blandin displays about 1500 earthenware and 2500 ceramic items, making it “a must see for earthenware lovers.”  Including a Judith platter by Grue. Uh oh.  Just realized that Nevers is famous for blue-and-white earthenware – one of my weaknesses.  Also realized that I am likely to fall in love with the Loire Valley and Burgundy wine.

Mon-Sat:   9.30am to 6pm;   Sun:  10am to 1pm  and  3pm to 6pm

The next leg of this trip has been the hardest to plan so far.  Like Alice in Wonderland weird.   Because you can’t get there from here without going several hours back to Paris.   As if East-West travel has been forbidden.  But i am determined and willing to take the Regional Train, so I made my own itinerary to Vézelay.  Starting from Nevers to Autun (only on Mondays at 3:30pm on TER93163 arriving 5:43) then Autun to Avallon (5:48 on CAR31668 arriving 7:42pm) then Avallon to Vézelay by shuttle (20 min).  Or rent a car and drive 1.5 hours from Nevers to Vezelay whenever I choose.

When I get there, a room at Le Compostelle will be waiting.  The reviews are great but I hope it is not in a compost pile.

Day 73:   After all the craziness of getting here, the destination is worth it: Vezelay Abbey (aka Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine).  With sculpted capitals and portal, the 12th-century monastic church is a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque architecture – and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   It served to as home to relics of St Mary Magdalene (until they were burned by the Hugenots) and as the starting point of the Second and Third Crusades (1146 and 1190 respectively).   My goal is the nave capital of Judith – but they are all worth a look.

(July-Aug)  Daily: 7am to 9pm,  (Sept-June)  Daily:   sunrise to sunset
tours Tues-Sat:  9:30am to 12pm and 2:45pm to 4:45pm

Now getting out is only slightly less crazy.  I think I will wait until tomorrow. and drink wine.

Day 74:  Shuttle back to Avallon (20 min), direct train to Auxenne (TER91156 at 8:39am arr 9:44am), to catch TER92008 at 2:37 connecting to CAR33303 at 3:05pm that arrives in Troyes at 5:05pm BUT only on Mondays.  Or drive a little over an hour.

the car wins.

Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustobona Tricassium, which stood at the hub of numerous highways.   I am here for the Judith of stained glass (“Memory of Glass”) in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.   Built on the ruins of two previous cathedrals, it took 400 years to complete and illustrates the various stages of the Gothic styles : Pure, Rayonnant and Flamboyant.  That is a semester of architecture classes in one site!

(May-Sept)  Mon-Sat:   10am to 1pm and 2pm to 7pm;   Sun:   2pm to 7pm
(Oct-April)   Mon-Sat:   9am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm;   Sun:   2pm to 5pm

But my chosen hotel sounds like the real delight.   Le Maison de Rhodes is one of the many half-timbered buildings in Troyes – the foundations dating form the 12th century.  once the property of the Knights of the Order of Malta, it is now an 11-room hotel opening on to a paved courtyard and a medieval garden – across from the cathedral.   A straight 7 minute walk on a street that changes names 3 times.  Who cares when you are in the region of Champagne – the gift from the gods.

Day 75:   Where was I?  Oh yes, Troyes.   On to Chaumont,  about an hour by train.  The home of Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (Museum of Art and History).  An another unknown artist of Judith.  Also worth seeing:  creches.  the most spectacular 18th century Neapolitan nativity scenes, where the Holy Family, shepherds and joined by the richly colored procession of the Magi, is surrounded by figures of the Neapolitans.  And a tribute to glove making, the industry of the city.

Tues – closed;   Wed-Mon:  2pm to 6pm

I can then press on to Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island) – a World Heritage site – that is proximous to the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and the Musee de Beaux Artes.   This Musee specializes in Old Master paintings from Europe until 1871 (except for Germanic Rhenish paintings before 1681 in another museum).    My destination: Judith with the Servant by Correggio.    Ten other museums display the rest of the stuff.

Tues – closed;   Mon, Wed-Fri:  noon – 6 pm;   Sat-Sun: 10 am – 6 pm

Then check-in to the Hotel Cathedrale before the next leg of travel in the Alps.

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Exploring


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Now for something completely different (XXVII)

A Date With Judy (1952, no.27)

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On a more serious note –

Today is the 26th anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on which Dr. Judith Resnik was a mission specialist.   Dr. Resnik was a biomedical engineer and staff fellow in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health and a senior systems engineer in product development with Xerox before joining NASA.   She was the second American woman astronaut, logging 145 hours in orbit.  Among her many honors, the lunar crater Resnik, located on the far side of the Moon, was named in her memory.

Read more at NASA: Judith Resnik

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in something completely different


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Judith on a pastoral evening

Girolamo da Carpi (Girolamo Sellari), “Judith with the Head Holofernes,” 1540-50, Old Pinakothek of Munich, Munich, Germany

Judith:  Taking it easy on a balmy night in the countryside.    Just me and my severed head.   Relaxing as the sun sets.    Thinking about what we might do tomorrow.   Comb your beard?   Color your hair?

Holofernes:  …

Judith:   Gee, you are awfully quiet tonight.   Detached, I might even say.

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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Distracted


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Judith in the Vatican, again

Continuing with Judith in strange locations –

Leonard Baskin, “Judith with the Head Holofernes,” 1972, bronze sculpture, Vatican Museums, Vatican City

How does a rabbi’s son end up with three sculptures in the Vatican museum?

I wrote about Baskin before (Judith with a temper, 12/15/2011).   At that time I read that three Baskin sculptures were located in the Vatican Museum (1).   Wonder of wonders, now that I go back to trace my steps the internet search sends me to … me.    So in this alternate universe where I am now “an expert,”   I look again and find that “Andromache (aka Mourning Woman)” (1971) has high-tailed herself to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and “Isaak” (1973) flew out to the Honolulu Academy of Arts.    I think he got the better deal.

As far as i can tell, Judith is still in the Vatican.   She appears to be swathed from head to toe in fabric.   Plain.  Resolute.  Without sensation but in control.

Leonard Baskin

And Holofernes’ head.  Does it favor Leonard Baskin?   Or do all bearded men just look the same to me?

(1) Leonard Baskin on  Facebook, 10/1/2010

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Glory


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Judith bends it like Beckham

Oh HO!!  We are back to the clothes that aren’t really clothes.

Ambrosius Benson, “Judith with the Head Holofernes,” 1530-33, Oil on panel , 98 x 71 cm, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France

Actually, I find this painting to be very suspicious on several levels.   Not just the clothing department.

First:  the artist.   How does an Italian come up with the last name of Benson?   The first people named Benson that come to mind are unlikely Italians.

Benson the Governor’s Aid

Benson the Detective

Benson the Musician

Second:   how does Benson end up in Bruges? That is 935 miles from Milan.

Third:   since Benson was known for the motif of women reading, where is Judith’s book?  Wait … it might be under the detached head.

Fourth:   where did Judith get a botched boob job in 16th century Bruges?   She looks like Victoria Beckham.

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

Exhibit DD

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Whorey


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Judith goes soft

Palma il Vecchio, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1528, Oil on wood, 90 x 71 cm, Uffizi, Florence, Italy

Palma il Vecchio (“Old Palma” aka Jacopo Palma or Jacopo Negretti) frequently featured his daughter, Violante, in his sensual and tender portraits with soft Venetian colors.   And it is likely this is one of those portraits.

This composition is a “soft-core” version of Judith.    Not only is Judith herself softer than the muscular Mannerist Judith’s, but two of the harsh elements of the story – the sword and the severed head – are softened by placement in the left corners almost out of view.    In fact, only the hilt of the sword can be seen resting on Holofernes’ forehead, who appears to be asleep in Judith’s lap.

Yes, this version is so soft that it might be acceptable to display in a room for relaxing.   Might be.

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Judith Bearing the Head of Holofernes, an Ekphrasis by J. Allyn Rosser

In her place I wouldn’t be quite so casual: 
I’d probably put it down pretty quickly,
somewhere level so it wouldn’t roll,
as they always say heads are going to do
 when there’s trouble. You wouldn’t want
 actual rolling, which might add that touch
of the comic we’re so terrified 
we might perceive in the dreadful.
 Almost every Judith holds him by the hair,
risking the least contact with blood-slime.
 Though in Ghirlandaio’s case 
the maidservant carries the sword
 while Judith balances Holofernes’ head
in a basket on her own, like a demented
 Carmen Miranda, the two of them strolling
 casually along, chatty in flowing robes.
Botticelli, whose gods look like women
 and whose women look like angels,
 but who knew something about real life, 
has the maidservant bearing the basket.
 Giorgione’s Judith places her foot on his hair
presumably in triumph, but clearly also 
to keep the head from rolling; 
in fact she gazes down too fondly at him,
as if she were footstroking her cat.

A few artists show the shadowy servant
stuffing him into a sack like a head of iceberg.
Apparently in those portraits where she’s still
holding the sword, she never let go of his hair
in the first place, after hacking.
But wouldn’t a sufficiently heavy weapon 
require two hands? In other contexts,
the brawniest executioners are always pictured 
holding the sword aloft with both hands.
It’s not easy cutting through bones,
as any woman knows who’s quartered a chicken
 (or cooked it whole to avoid having to).
She only had to smite him twice.
 But Judith had the adrenaline of the righteous, 
having prayed for strength. Still, you have to wonder.
To look at Caravaggio’s pale-cheeked Judith
 you’d think she was watching her lab partner 
slicing a frog. She doesn’t seem at all sure
 she should be doing this, judging by her expression 
of utter disgust and the way she holds herself 
away from the act as if to pretend
 those ruddy arms and hands aren’t hers,
 or to avoid splattering her lovely white blouse, 
though the blouse was added later to cover her nudity.
 Important to remember Judith came to the tent
 of General Holofernes expressly to seduce him,
 a fact some centuries felt they should suppress.
The Assyrian king had sent him to sack Israel,
 and the ultimate expression of any territory’s invasion, 
as we never tire of demonstrating ,
is the physical invasion of its women.
So Judith knew he’d relax about the whole thing 
once she offered to take him in. In every version
 she also got him drunk—though she appears 
pretty enough not to have needed the wine 
as encouragement; a woman that insecure
 would surely need two hands to follow through. 
Even Artemisia Gentileschi had so little faith 
in her Judith that she supplied four hands—
the maidservant is holding Holofernes down
 with her full weight while Judith gingerly
 saws at his neck with a cello-bow-angled wrist.
 Oh I suppose you could defend it as a show 
of heroism in sisterhood. But what about
 the divine individual and her sole sister self? 
That’s the Judith that makes the story sell.

In fact, the only Judith I’ve ever seen who could 
single-handedly have hacked through a man’s neck 
is that of Jacopo Palma the Elder—
now there’s a woman with some heft!—
whereas Cranach the Elder’s willowy gentlewoman 
(I’d kill for a jacket like that) in her gloves 
and velvet hat might be returning a mask 
too lifelike for her costume ball.
 Allori’s dreamy-lidded Judith seems to tell us
over her shoulder that math was never
 her best subject—true, she’s the image
 of Allori’s most recent ex-mistress
 and it’s his own head she’s toting—
and Saraceni’s Judith, holding the head
 as if it were a teapot with a hair handle,
 wants to know how many lumps.
Unlikeliest of all, however lovely her lines,
Veronese’s Judith lifts his head by the temples 
with aristocratically delicate hands, 
the way you’d treat a head you liked,
 one that was still attached to a nice person.

No, the only one I can believe is Jacopo Palma’s:
 his Judith firmly, efficiently grips both the hilt
 of the sword and a hank of hair in one hand,
a fistful of beard in the other. These are chunky,
Gauguin-size hands. Her shoulders are massive.
 Not much of a neck on her, which helps 
to make her appear invulnerable.
She looks like she’d do it again 
if the head somehow reattached itself.
 She looks like she’s only a tiny bit surprised 
that she managed it. She looks like she knows
 her story will be told by painters who will mostly be men
 who are going to have trouble seeing this scene 
as anything but apocryphal, and she’s fine with that.
 That is, after all, what we need them to think.


Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Cacciatore


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Judith is simply Red

Francois Legrand, “Judith et Holopherne,” 1999, oil on panel, 130 x 89 cm,

Isn’t she tidy?   She looks like she was doing a little spring cleaning and found this silly head under the bed.   Just need to find the dust bin and give it toss.

The amazing and startling aspect of this painting is the number of shades of red.    I know there is a science of color – and I did not study it – but I love color.   There are a few shades that leave me feeling queasy (puce – it even sounds disgusting)  but overall I am fascinated with all the options around the color wheel.   All the tints and shades and hues.    Red is one of the primary colors – the color of passion and heat and life.   Scarlet, Candy Apple, LustRubyCrimsonCardinalCarnelian, Dark Red, Maroon.  They are seem to be in this painting.

Certainly hides any blood.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Glory


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Judith departs from the agenda

Time for change-up.   All this Baroque is starting to bore me.   And since it is my blog and my rules, I now have a new agenda:  alternating decades.   A little contemporary Judith, a little Renaissance Judith, a little Fin de siècle Judith.

And statues.   There will be statues.  And other household items.

But still no etchings.   You get the picture.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Mooring