Judith and the oldest profession

26 Mar

Despite the contemporary analysis of Judith yesterday (and the unearthing of my true agenda), today we are back to the old Judith – the one who is confused with a whore.

The Procuress; (?) Judith with the Head of Holofernes ?circa 1828 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph Mallord William Turner , “The Procuress/Judith with the Head of Holofernes” c.1828, Oil on canvas, 124.1 x 91.4 cm, Tate Collection, London, England, UK

To make matters worse, I am not even sure about the artist because this is a TOTAL departure for Joseph Mallord William Turner.   Looking over his portfolio, there is a wealth of pre-impressionist landscapes and a smattering of bird heads (bird heads?) but nothing about the Bible or mythology or nude women.

Nothing.  Unless you count the bird heads.

The speculation is that this unfinished oil painting reflects a generally “Titianesque manner” and is probably an early work, deriving from Turner’s experience of Titian at the Louvre in 1802 (1).  There is also a similar black-and-white drawing in Turner’s “Calais Pier” sketchbook – but the figure behind the young woman appears to be a bearded man instead of an older woman.  Either way, how in the bloody hell does one get from:

  • a Pimp or a Procuress (aka Madame) instructing a young woman to use the key in her hand to service a Client, to
  • a chaste, young Old Testament widow who saves her city by decapitating an Assyrian General

Somebody was drinking the wine a little too liberally, is my guess.

(1) Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984 quoted in the description by the Tate Collection.

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Cacciatore


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