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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Judith is in stitches

Judith (1600's mid) Band sampler - full

Unknown, Band sampler, mid 1600s, Linen plain weave embroidered with linen, silk, and metallic thread, 65 x 18.1 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

 

 

In country estate, sometime around the English Civil War –

Grandmother:  Oh darling, what a lovely sampler you have made!  How long did it take you to do this?

Granddaughter:  Only 6 years. Every day. All day.

Grandmother:  And tell me about the stitches.

Granddaughter:  Well there’s chain stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, whipstitching, pea stitch …

Grandmother: Thrilling that you learned so much. And …

Granddaughter: … single Brussels, Corded single Brussels, whipped single Brussels, Double Brussels, Treble Brussels, …

Grandmother: Yes dear but …

Granddaughter: … buttonhole, twisted buttonhole, whipped twisted buttonhole, corded twisted buttonhole. knotted buttonhole, knotted single buttonhole, knotted double buttonhole …

Grandmother:  Oh my, I never expected …

Granddaughter: … plain twisted bar, double twisted bar, buttonholed bars. 

Grandmother:  [waiting]  Are you quite finished?  You’re sure you didn’t miss one?

Granddaughter: Pretty sure.

Grandmother:  Then tell me about the top bar.  Isn’t that Judith and Holofernes?

Granddaughter: No actually, that’s my fiancé. After waiting to marry me for six years, when I showed him the “almost” finished product I planned to display prominently in our new home, he said he did not care for it and planned to give it to his mistress as a parting gift. So I looked her up and we decided he was not worth the fuss. Amazing what one can accomplish with embroidery shears, isn’t it?

 

Judith (1600s mid) Band sampler - detail

Unknown, Band sampler detail of Judith and Holofernes, mid 1600s, Linen plain weave embroidered with linen, silk, and metallic thread, 65 x 18.1 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

 

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Cacciatore

 

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Judith and the scissors

Awww. How sad. Accidents do happen and little girls can be so sensitive to the stuffed animals they nurture. You want to help them mend the damage and yet …

Judith (2012) Neona Karageorgos

Neona Karageorgos, “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” 2012, Charcoal/Pastel drawing, 18 x 24 in, N.Karas Art blog

 

… this picture is not what it seems.

As Neona graciously describes the scene:

My pastel artwork, Judith Slaying Holofernes, is named after the painting done by Artemisia Gentileschi, a baroque painter and someone whom I view as a strong and accomplished woman of her time, especially being a woman in the time period she was living in.

My artwork was a project in college. We had to choose an artist as an inspiration, take their artwork and create our own twist and interpretation of their work in our own piece. The contradiction of a female character committing what would be seen as a violent and masculine act, drew my attention. My own artwork tends to have morbid propensities, so naturally I chose this painting as my inspiration. I also like to show contradictions and have an element of surprise to my work.

I had my younger sister and my niece pose for the pastel drawing. I wanted to show innocence committing a dark act. They didn’t actually cut the stuffed animals head off, I drew it that way, but it was drawn subtle enough that many people who view the drawing ( it is hanging up in my office), don’t see the scissors right away. When they do notice are intrigued by the drawing that much more. You wouldn’t expect such sinister behavior from the seemingly innocent children, nor would one expect a woman to commit such a heinous act like a beheading.

I don’t know why I keep laughing .. and then frowning.  Maybe I should ask what these little girls are doing today … or maybe not.  But whatever the outcome, Neona nailed it.

You may also want to see her other work as a tattoo artist here.  The bowling pins are my favorite.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Gory

 

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Judith and the surname

This is the work of Gerrit Pietersz of the Dutch Golden Age – or is it?  Because what is art history without a little confusion.

Judith (1605) Gerrit Pietersz

Gerrit Pietersz (1566-1608), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1605, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 107.5 cm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, NL

 

Gerrit is known to be the brother of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) – one of the first major keyboard composers of Europe who helped establish the north German organ tradition.  Their father, organist Pieter Swybbertszoon, died in 1573 – and their mother died in 1585 – leaving 23-year-old Jan Pieterszoon with responsibility for his younger brother and sister.  When Jan first began to publish music in 1594, he adopted his mother’s last name; “Sweelinck” for reasons that are unknown.  Because why would he not wish to be a Swybbertszoon?  For years, it was assumed that Gerrit Pietersz also took his mother’s name – and much of his work was attributed to “Gerrit Pietersz Sweelinck” (1) – when in fact, he never did use that surname and the correct name on his paintings should be Gerrit Pietersz.

Which brings into question the concept of surnames and its place in history.  The concept of a surname evolved from the medieval practice called a byname. In situations where more than one person had the same name, a byname would be used to distinguish the two – which happened more often as communities became more dispersed.  A byname was descriptive in order to facilitate the differentiation, and they were most commonly based on 1) occupation, 2) place name, 3) geographic feature, 4) familial relationship, 5) a personal characteristic, or 6) patronage.  Bynames or surnames were somewhat fluid in the Netherlands until 1811, when Napoleonic Code required registration of everything and thus standardization of names was required.  But in Jan and Gerrit’s lifetime of the late 16th and early 17th century , Jan went by Peterson (Pieterszoon) and Gerrit went by Peters (Pietersz) – both after their father Pieter. Until one day Jan got a wild hair and added his mother’s surname.

So now I am left to wonder:  what ever happened to the given name Swybbert and why did it decline in popularity?

And unfortunately that is the most interesting fact I could dig up on Gerrit Pietersz.   Looks like Judith may feel the same way.
(!) Haverkamp-Begemann, et al., Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-century European Drawings: Central Europe, The Robert Lehman Collection, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, p 178.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Cacciatore

 

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Judith and the Pin-Up

As long as I was talking about pin-up art yesterday, it seems like a good time to share these inviting cards from Katie Hill, compliments of her friend and fellow graphic artist Erika Gibson.

Judith (2014) Katie Hill

Katie Hill, Judith & Holofernes, 2014, http://www.pinterest.com/pin/222928250279448312/

 

Pin-ups are drawings, paintings, and other illustrations that emulate photos of models who were public or available as sex symbols and their images were meant to be “pinned-up” on a wall.  They are considered idealized versions of what a beautiful or attractive woman should look like.  Think of Betty Grable, Bettie Page, the Vargas girls, and early Marilyn Monroe.

Let’s just say Judith appears to be pretty please with herself.  So who wouldn’t want to receive a greeting card with her assets displayed in order to share in her celebration?  Even if it means a little sacrifice from Holofernes.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Whorey

 

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Judith in a den of iniquity

I have never experienced an opium den, but I bet it feels like viewing the opulent, decadent, intoxicating illustrations of Vania Zouravliov. Without the withdrawal and risk of arrest.

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 1

“Russian-born Vania Zouravliov was inspired from an early age by influences as diverse as The Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, early Disney animation and North American Indians. Something of a child prodigy in his homeland, he was championed by many influential classical musicians including Ashkenazi, Spivakov and Menuhin. He even had television programs made about him and was introduced to famous communist artists, godfathers of social realism, who told him that his work was from the Devil.”

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 3

“By the age of 13, Vania Zouravliov was exhibiting internationally, visited Canterbury several times as well as Paris, Colmar and Berlin. He subsequently studied in the UK, and during this time began creating illustrations for The Scotsman and comics for Fantagraphics and Dark Horse in the US. His most recent projects have been for Beck’s The Information and National Geographic.” (1)

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 2

 

Many thoughts come pouring from these lavish lithographs, evoking connections to ancient myths, exotic locales, and inspiring artists of earlier times.  I feel a little like Joseph Campbell bringing in multiple elements from –

  • Japanese Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world” — especially shunga or “picture of spring,” in which “spring” is a euphemism for sex — as portrayed by Utamaro in his depictions of courtesans
  • Orientalism, the mixture of languor, sex, violence, bondage and exoticism that is seen in the odalisque paintings of Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  • Traditional Persian attire, with intricate textured fabrics and layers of jewels – topped by an elaborate turban.
  • Illustrative fairie tales of Arthur Rackham and Kay Rasmus Nielsen that layer delicate fantasies behind the routines of everyday life
  • Costuming for ballet, as typified by Leon Baskt’s creations of beauty in motion
  • Art NouveauxAubrey Beardsley comes immediately to mind with his black and white illustrations against a white background and his themes of perversion and erotica.  Alphonse Mucha’s blushing and haloed young women in flowing, Neoclassical robes, surrounded by a profusion of flowers.
  • Gothic tales, such as Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • Pin-up art, in which Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas celebrate the female form in positions to exaggerate and accentuate feminine sexual characteristics.
  • Erotica, which hovers along the mutable border of respectful admiration of the beauty of sex and the pornographic perversion of submission and suffering.  You will have to be the judge, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who said “I know it when I see it.”

It’s all a little overwhelming – but a source of endless flights of imagination.

The Head () Vania Zouravliov

(1) Big Active, Illustration: Vania Zouravliov.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Whorey

 

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Judith in alabaster

Alabaster is the common name for soft, smooth, fine-grained sedimentary gypsum rock – popular because it is soft and easy to work or carve.

Alabaster has been used since the beginning of time to carve decorative items, both large and small.

Alabaster can be worked to show varying degrees of low and high relief such that “the luminous alabaster surface highlights the powerful folds of fabric and accentuates the elegant movement of the figures.” (1)  And the death-clutch of the headless body in the bed.

Oval alabaster relief

Oval alabaster relief of Judith and Holofernes, c. 1600, alabaster in a later gilt wood frame, 31 x 26.7 cm, auctioned by Christie’s, New York, January 28, 2009 (lot  #21)

 

This example of alabaster carving comes from the late 1500s to early 1600s in Germany, probably designed to adorn the interior of a residence or to exhibit in a collection.  As described by Aleksandra Lipińska in the essential text on alabaster from Northern Europe, this alabaster seems to be typical of the pieces produced in that time and place:

Old Testament stories were usually selected for their potential to be construed as allegories of secular virtues (e.g. the Judgment of Solomon as a allegory of just government) or as scenes with the potential for exploiting erotic suggestion (Lot and his daughters). Such scenes tended to be stylised in the antique fashion: scenes peopled with figures dressed in tunics and issued with Roman armour were played out against backgrounds of ancient ruins, with distant panoramas of towns featuring buildings resembling Greek temples or Italian palaces. (2, p268)

But the description in Otto Naumann’s art house catalogue uncovered something truly unique about this piece and the previous owners.

The present work once hung in the library of Clifford Ambrose Truesdell (1919-2000), a professor of Rational Mechanics at Johns Hopkins University and an influential figure in twentieth century science.  Evidently, this subject was of particular interest to Professor Truesdell and his wife, who had their own likenesses represented as Judith and Holofernes in a portrait on the opposite wall.(1)

Wow. I would love to know what Mrs. Truesdell did to convince Dr. Truesdell to assume that role – and whatever happened to that painting.  It would make a great addition to my collection.

(1) Otto Naumann Ltd.

(2)  Aleksandra Lipińska, Moving Sculptures: Southern Netherlandish alabasters from the 16th to 17th centuries in central and northern Europe. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2014.

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Postscript:  Once I found the story of the re-creation of Judith and Holofernes with the images of the owners of this alabaster,  I was fascinated.  Who WERE these people?  My investigation revealed: not just idle rich with too much time on their hands,

Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III is regarded as the founder of the modern science of rational mechanics and a leader in the study of thermodynamics.  He wrote or co-wrote 26 books, 268 papers and many book reviews, and was the winner of numerous international prizes and medals in mathematics.  In his spare time, Truedell was an ardent student of the Renaissance.  From his obituary in the Baltimore Sun (Jan 19, 2000)

Dr. Truesdell collected paintings and silver. He invited musicians and dancers to perform in his home, a granite and brick Palladian structure on a slight hill in Guilford, and often invited friends to attend candlelight musicales. For these soirees, Dr. Truesdell dressed in 18th-century attire, including a lace collar that had been made by his grandmother. His wife would be similarly attired. “They were a seamless totality and complimented each other. Their home was an ongoing work of art, and if you were there for an event, it was not easily forgotten,” said Gary Vikan, director of Walters Art Gallery.

And when I really poked around for a minute or two, I found images in the collection of The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History of Clifford and Charlotte Truesdell standing before the the study of their home “il Palazzetto.”  And in the background i swear is a Manneristic portrayal of Judith lifting the fauchion – that I would bet has the likenesses of Clifford and Charlotte.

06truesdells

Clifford and Charlotte Truesdell, photographed by the former in front of his study in Il Palazzetto, 1975, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

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COULD IT GET ANY BETTER!!!   Through a series of emails with the grandson of the Truesdell’s, he produced a photo of the painting!!!!    I noted that the selection of chose Judith and Holofernes was “not the most functional interaction to depict … but must have said something about their sense of humor and vision of their own relationship.”  And I received this very kind response from Cliff:

This painting was prominently in his study/office, so he basically lived with it every day. The word above the painting is “STRUIMUS” which is latin for “we build,” which was some sort of motto for them.

I think you’re right about their vision of their relationship and I appreciate the insight. I didn’t know them very well but in the limited time I spent with them it was clear that they were two of the most connected people I’ve ever met.
Judith Truesdell detail

Dr. and Mrs. Clifford Truesdell III as Judith and Holofernes, photographed over the fireplace of his study in Il Palazzetto, Baltimore, MD – courtesy of Cliff Truesdell

 

 

Yes, I do believe this has been the most edifying and entertaining posts to write.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Glory

 

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Judith needs a List

Wilhelm List is hard to pin down.

FIRST,  there are two infamous men with the name Wilhelm List.

  • Wilhelm List the Painter (1864-1918) was an Austrian, one of the twelve illustrators of the 1902 catalogue for the Viennese Secession dedicated to Beethoven.
  • Wilhelm List the Field Marshal (1880-1971) was a German commander of the 14th Army that invaded Poland, the 12th Army that invaded Greece and Yugoslavia, and was convicted of reprisal killing of hostages in retaliation for partisan activity during the Hostages Trial – for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

While it is possible that Wilhelm List the Field Marshal developed a talent for painting while incarcerated with time on his hands, it is more likely that this painting is the work of List the Painter.

Judith () Wilhelm List

Wilhelm List (1864–1918), “Judith und Holofernes ,” oil on cardboard, 37 x 35 cm, auctioned 27 Apr 2006 (Lot #679)

 

SECOND, the selection of Judith with a severed head as a theme is most unusual for Wilhelm List the Painter.  Most of his works of art are so  …  uplifting.  Angels and saints, mothers and babies, flowers and trees, puppies and kittens.

Comparable to Alphonse Osbert and Gustav Klimt, he revealed himself as a remarkable portraitist, as shown in ‘The Woman in black and white’, where his technique of divided colours and fine long brush strokes, with a dominance of blue, evokes the works of Edmond Aman-Jean during the same period. (1)

tumblr_nf0s9mhumI1rv2dfko1_500

Woman in Black and White

the of s

The Offering

A Night Fairy

A Night Fairy

Daylight and Twilight

Daylight and Twilight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I suppose I will let the influence of The Secessionists explain List’s selection.  You may recall I touched on the Viennese Secession when I first landed on Gustav Klimt (“Judith goes for Gold,” November 15, 2011).  Klimt formed the Vienna Secession in 1897 with a group of Austrian artists (Moser, Hoffmann, Olbrich, Kurzweil, Bernatzik, Wagner) – with the purpose to object to copying historic styles by resigning from the Association of Austrian Artists and to create a new style was no from historical influence.  The Secession was part of a larger movement in art known today as Jugendstil or Art Nouveau. Although there was no unifying style, many chose the female body as their primary subject, portrayed with traditional allegory and symbolism.

Thus among the angels and saints, Judith was a popular subject for Secessionists dues to her rebellious spirit and her use of feminine wiles to exert her power.  List depicts her in murky tones, on her knees  as if she is worshipful or expressing gratitude to Holofernes’ severed head.  It obviously does not repel her or inspire fear; instead her bowed head suggests a demeanor of respect.

So is that what it has come to? Judith saying “I know it was violent and all – not exactly what you had in mind for the evening – but thanks for giving me your head so I can scare off the rest of your army.”  Well … sure … if you were raised to be really polite and feel there is no time like the present.

Personally, I would be content to share those thoughts AFTER the head was on a spike on the city wall.

 

(1)  Julia Kerr, Wilhelm List Biography, www.artmagick.com

And if you have further interest in Wilhelm List (the Painter, not the Filed Marshal), there are several nice digital displays of his work:

Wikigallery, Wilhelm List

The Athenaeum, Wilhelm List – Artworks

Seeking Beauty, Wilhelm List (Austrian ,1864-1918) (Nov. 8th, 2014)

Terry Prest, St Elizabeth of Hungary, idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.com

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Whorey

 

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