Monthly Archives: February 2012

Judith dresses in Bakst, avant

Judith was keeping good company when she wore the designs of Leon Bakst.   Bakst had been the set and costume designer for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes until 1822, responsible for gems like Cleopatra (1909), Scheherazade (1910), Carnaval (1910), Narcisse (1911), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), and Daphnis et Chloe (1912).   He left Russia for France and teamed with Henri Bernstein in the designs for the 1922 production of Judith.

Woman (1922) by Bakst for the play “Judith”

Jewish Elder (1922) by Bakst for the play “Judith”

General Hasphenor (1922) by Bakst for the play “Judith”

Judith – The Queen’s Guard (1922) by Bakst for the play “Judith”

The play was apparently a success, although it is difficult to find information.  The one article I could find appeared in Science Magazine (yes, a little odd), indicating the proceeds of a performance were donated to French Confederation of Scientific Societies.

Poster for “Judith” (1922) by Henry Bernstein at Théâtre du Gymnase

Science Magazine, Dec 8, 1922.

This article does give one new piece of information:  who played the title role.  “Mme Simone” was Simone le Bargy, an actress who had worked with Bernstein on numerous productions. she was famous enough to be billed as simply “Simone”.

Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1922) Leon Bakst

But somehow I have trouble imagining her in this costume. Reminds me of something more likely to be worn by another one-name wonder, “Cher.”

Mme Simone le Bargy (1911)

Cher, Take Me Home (1979)

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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Story


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Judith contemplates her conquest

I think I already abused the titles “Judith gets a little head” and “Judith gets a Big Head,” so what’s left?

The dramatic, exquisite and sweetly ironic art of Alexander Daniloff.

Alexander Daniloff is an artist, illustrator and designer – depicting life from a theatrical and whimsical point of view.    His subjects are often mythological – sometimes comical and child-like, sometimes somber and delving into our darker archetypes.   Of course, Judith is hardly a subject for children’s literature but Danilov does explore the fantastical side of her story.    His evolution on the subject is observed across these three paintings – from an expressionless and flat female clutching a severed head – to a sensitive and contemplative woman revering the sacrifice of an adversary who was larger than life.

Alexander Daniloff , “Judith,” 1999, 60 x 40 cm,

Alexander Daniloff , “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” 2003, Mixed media on canvas, 90 x 60 cm,

Alexander Daniloff, “Judith,” 2008, Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm,

For the variety of his work, visit Alexander Daniloff.   He is the one dressed as a centaur.

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Story


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Judith is sensual … morbidly

Simone Pignoni was best known for painting “in a style reminiscent of the morbidly sensual Furini” (1).    Makes me wonder about morbid sensuality, since that hints at S&M in my simple mind.    His self-portrait (c. 1650) is often cited as evidence of his “licentiousness”  – in which he depicts himself building up a plump naked female from a skeleton.   I don’t really see the problem here, from a contemporary perspective.   No different from the Halloween decorations in my neighbor’s front yard.

Whatever his predilections, he did an admirable job portraying Judith.   And then others did an admirable job of copying Pigeon.   The sincerest form of flattery.

Simone Pignoni, “Judith,” 1675, oil on canvas , 38 x 28 in, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

(after) Simone Pignoni, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” oil on canvas, 116.8 x 80.7 cm, auctioned by Sotheby’s 1/25/2001

Thomas Le Clair, “Judith and Holofernes,” c.1860, oil on canvas, 285 x 220 cm. auctioned by Sotheby’s 12/07/2004 (Lot 537); collection of Sue & Robert Joki

(1)  Based on comments by Fillipo Baldiuncci in Notizie de’ professori del disegno da Cimabue in qua (Notices of professors of design from Cimabue to now) (1681) – keeping in mind he was intensely pious, considered becoming a Jesuit, and his understanding of art stemmed largely from his religion.

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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Whorey


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Judith as a blithe spirit

Leon Francois Comerre, “Judith,” c. 1900, Oil on canvas, 95.3 x 50.8 cm, private collection

Comerre paintings were all about lighthearted sensuality. His breathtaking pictures, painted in a lucid and glowing style, had an extraordinary way of revealing an air of frivolity coupled with deliberate eroticism.  He had an affinity with nature, especially its dramatic and ethereal aspects. Primeval intensity, blithe elegance, and  an ethereal atmosphere characterize his opulent painting style. (!)

And that explains the broad smile on her face and skip in her step on the way to decapitate the General.  My mistake:  I had misinterpreted this to mean she was just a murderous floozie.

(1) The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters: Leon Francois Comerre

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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Whorey


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Judith sets the stage

Isamu Noguchi, “Tent of Holofernes,” 1950, bronze, 108 x 109 x 54 in, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, US

Combine Martha Graham, founder of modern dance, with artist Isamu Noguchi – and you get stage sets.  Over the course of three decades, Noguchi designed about 20 sets for Graham, including the most famous Appalachian Spring (1944) and those for her series based on Greek myths as well as works revolving around biblical and religious themes, including Judith (1950).

Isamu Noguchi, “Tent of Holofernes,” 1950, bronze, 108 x 109 x 54 in, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, US

This form was created as a stage set for Judith, one of three bronze casts made from the balsawood original that appeared on stage.    Noguchi’s sculpture of four rigid bronze forms create a skeletal tent with two interlocking diagonal beams the serve as the tent’s opening and a single horizontal beam as the tent’s top edge.   This support was covered with a scarf during the performance of the dance.

Isamu Noguchi, “Tent of Holofernes,” 1950, bronze, 108 x 109 x 54 in, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US

Symbolically, Noguchi used the ends of the forms to suggest the story.   The pointed tops suggest of spears of the Assyrian army – as well as Holofernes’ phallic desire for Judith.   The snake-like form of the diagonal – with a gaping mouth, sharp fangs, and bulging eyes – suggests danger lies within the tent. (1)

Apparently, Holofernes missed that cue.

(1) Getty Museum:  Tent of Holofernes

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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Story


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Judith runs away with the circus

Arcangelo Salimbeni, “Judith and Holofernes,” 16th century, fresco. Chigi Saracini, Siena, IT

The photograph of the fresco is very small, so I am speculating here but … looks like Judith has run away with the circus.   And lucky girl, this circus has two carrousels!

I wonder how much she can charge to view the Headless Man?

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Cacciatore


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Now for something completely different (XXX)

A Date With Judy (1952 no 30)

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In 2012 – sixty years later – Judy Gold talks about contemporary domestic life.

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in something completely different


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