In medieval British culture, a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron’s ancestors and to praise the patron’s own activities. From frequent use in Romanticism, ‘The Bard’ became a title to various poets – most notably across time, ‘The Bard of Avon,’ ‘The Immortal Bard’ or simply ‘The Bard’ to an anglophile is William Shakespeare.
The town of Stratford-upon-Avon has been virtually stopped in time to honor England’s most famous poet and playwright. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) is the oldest conservation society in Britain and considered the most significant Shakespeare charity in the world. The mission of SBT is to promote the appreciation and study of William Shakespeare’s works, and to advance of Shakespearian knowledge by maintaining and preserving the Shakespeare Birthplace properties, a museum, library of books, manuscripts, records of historic interest, pictures, photographs and objects of antiquity associated with the life and times of William Shakespeare. In fulfillment of that mission, SBT acquired this panel painting in 2014 as a representation of popular art during Shakespeare’s time.
The story of Judith and Holofernes was well known in Shakespeare’s day and it was a popular subject for painters in the 16th and 17th centuries. This panel was painted by an unknown Northern European artist and has been dated to about 1575… It is interesting to wonder whether there is a connection between the Biblical character of Judith and the name chosen by Shakespeare for his second daughter. (1)
I discussed his daughter Judith way-back-when in a post – although I found no significant connection to the biblical Judith. Just a nice name.
But the reason that posting this painting today is important is not that it was acquired a year ago. No, the importance is … seven weeks from today I will be able to view this for myself at the Shakespeare Birthplace! So in between the plays and the pubs and the puddings, if it is on display, I can check out this Judith with my own eyes!!
Now excuse me while I go to throw salt over my shoulder and spit three times while twirling around in order not to jinx the trip.
(1) Finding Shakespeare, New Acquisition: Judith and Holofernes, posted on February 21st, 2014 by Paul Taylor