Judith gathers ye rosebuds

07 Aug

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he ‘s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he ‘s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

To the Virgins, to make much of Time by Robert Herrick. 1591–1674

Boris Anisfeld, “Judith holding the head of Holofernes,” 1947, Oil on canvas, 127 x 101.5 cm,                                                auctioned by Gene Shapiro, April 23, 2009 (Lot 7)

Primarily because this composition was one of the few in the story of Judith that featured flowers, I took the opportunity to be a little cheesy.   Indeed, Anisfeld was well-known for his use of color and it shows even in this scene of murderous intent.

Contemporaries were writing about his pictures as tales of wonderous deep tones, as color fantasies. Some observed an orgiastic feeling for color, and his ability to transform nature, almost to break it up as if on a forge of colors. A. N. Benois noted Anisfeld’s defining characteristic: “Anisfeld is in fact a spontaneous man, but his spontaneity is based not on history, or poetry or nature, but on sheer color.” (1)

But what is difficult to discern:  is the decapitation about to happen … or is it a fait accompli?  Because I count at least three disembodied heads floating in this scene.   Is Judith thinking about the act she is planning to commit (and is plagued by visions of what it might be)?  Or has she completed the task (and is haunted by the severed heads)?

It is unclear, but not to worry as long as there are flowers on the table and snacks on a tray.  And assuming the heads are not bothersome, Judith can relax here and enjoy the lovely colors for a few more hours.


(1)  Olga Sugrobova-Roth, Anisfeld in the Critics’ Eyes, Catalogue raisonné: Boris Anisfeld (viewed February 14, 2012)

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Whorey


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