Judith looks down

03 Apr

Looks like we are stuck with that psychotic angel theme.

And to make matters worse, now the angel has Judith on the ceiling with Holofernes’ bloody stump hanging over the edge,  like we are standing in a hole under the tent.

Leonello Spada, “Judith and Holofernes,” c. 1600, ceiling fresco, Santuario della Madonna della Ghiara, Reggio Emilia, IT

Leonello Spada was quite clever as he frescoed the vault of the Basilica of the Madonna della Ghiara in Reggio Emilia when it comes to use of artistic perspective.   Even on a computer screen — the scene makes me queasy.

  • The angel looks like she may lose her buoyancy at any moment and careen to the floor.
  • Judith has a tenuous grip on both the severed head and the sword as she leans over the platform, suggesting there is danger that one or both could come flying out of her hands.
  • And finally there is the matter of the blood dripping from Holofernes’ gaping neck wound.  I expect to see blood stains on the tiles at my feet.

But in fairness to choice of subjects, Spada painted not only Judith but nine other female protagonists of the Old Testament on the four barrel vaults that form the arms of Greek cross sections.

  • Adam and Eve in paradise
  • Rebecca handing a drink to Abraham’s servant
  • Rachel at the well
  • Jael and Sisera
  • Abigail presenting to David angered many provisions
  • Esther at the foot of the throne of Ahasuerus
  • Deborah and Barak
  • Abishag, beautiful girl of Sunam, serving the old David on the throne surrounded by the court.

And for that, I suppose Spada would be considered an early advocate of women’s equality.  At least in artistic portrayals.

Santuario della Madonna della Ghiara, Reggio Emilia, IT

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Glory


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