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Monthly Archives: April 2020

Judith: 60 Paintings for 51

I can’t say this is one of my favorites. But then, the catalogue note explains the mood of the time and the mindset of the artist. I’ll let the note speak eloquently for itself.

Judith (1951-52) Burra

Edward Burra (1905-76), Judith and Holofernes, 1950-51, pencil and watercolor, 100.5 x 130 cm, auctioned by Sotheby’s: Modern & Post-War British Art, November 17-18, 2015, London, England

CATALOGUE NOTE
Following the Second World War, the cultural atmosphere in Britain was decidedly bleak. Somewhat cut off from the rest of the world due to travel restrictions and import limitations, rationing was in full force in Britain for much longer than it was elsewhere, fuel was in scarce supply, and the new modern products that were being manufactured in the country were being exported around the world, rather than being available for British consumers. It was within this context that the Government organised The Festival of Britain of 1951, a national exhibition designed to raise the spirits of the country and celebrate British ingenuity and creativity, as well as the country’s scientific and industrial prowess. Burra was one of the artists asked to contribute to an exhibition of paintings for the Festival entitled 60 Paintings for 51. Held at Suffolk Galleries, the show included such important pieces as Lucian Freud’s Interior Near Paddington (1951), Francis Bacon’s Painting (1950), L.S. Lowry’s Industrial Landscape: River Scene (1950), and Keith Vaughan’s Interior at Minos (1950), with William Gear winning the prize for his Autumn Landscape (1950). The artists were allowed to contribute a painting on whatever subject they should so choose, the only requirement being that the work be on a grand scale, and Burra selected the arresting and imposing Judith and Holofernes.

Given the convivial atmosphere of the Festival, Burra’s choice of subject seems an odd one, but is in many ways a testament to his nature. Always reticent to talk about his art, he rarely attended his own gallery openings, participated in the sale or promotion of his work, and was never one to veer from his own intentions, regardless of the requirements of a particular commission or show. This seems to be the case here, as it was during this period that Burra was working on a series of religious themed works which drew heavily on the paintings of the old masters, particularly those of El Greco. It was in the National Gallery that Burra would have seen many Spanish masterworks that derived from Biblical sources, and while Burra was never an overtly religious person, he found within these stories a useful framework through which he could comment on humanity. They are amongst his darkest creations and in such paintings as Christ Mocked (1950-2), The Expulsion of the Money Changers (1950-2) and Peter and the High Priest’s Servant (1950-2), we see crowds of entwined bodies relishing in the displays of public violence, devolving into demonic presences in their greed, and wielding a brutal sense of authority.

It is perhaps unsurprising that in these religious works Burra has often chosen to focus on the darker Biblical passages. Burra had long been fascinated by the macabre and the bizarre, and these elements appear continually throughout his career, from the dancing skeletons of the 1930s, all the way through to the menacing presences we find in his English landscapes of the 1950s and 60s. He drew inspiration from gothic novels which he loved, and as Jane Stevenson points out in her biography on the artist, he owned several books which focused on the existence of the occult, witchcraft and magic. The story of Judith and Holofernes, the tale of a beautiful widow who decapitates an Assyrian general recently arrived to destroy her home city, would have therefore provided ample inspiration for Burra’s fertile imagination.

While Burra has included many of the elements one often sees in the Renaissance and Baroque depictions of the story, the servant ready and waiting in the shadows to ferry away the severed head in a bag, the three main parties enclosed in darkness at the moment of dramatic climax, he has also imbued the story with his own unique vision, a mix of darkness with the comic that produces such powerful and intriguing characters. Judith has become a towering and imposing presence, her muscles bulge and her slanted eyes pierce cat like through the darkness. Burra has given us a full frontal view of the severed neck, arteries still pulsing with blood, while Holofernes’ head, grey and drained of life, still holds a snide grin. A lit torch in the background watches the scene and grimaces in horror, while music from the guitar player floats into the tent. As with so many of Burra’s best works, the drama and passion of the story is impregnated with his particular sense of the uncanny and strange, leading to a truly unforgettable rendering of such a well-known narrative.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith, all dolled up

Yesterday, it was hats. Today, it’s dolls. But a special doll.

Judith (2015) Randi Channel.jpg

Randi Channel, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 2014, ball jointed glazed porcelain doll with hair from alpaca, 16″ tall.

This is the work of Randi Channel, also known on Etsy as Tiny Shirt. She specializes in 100% original, handcrafted, porcelain ball jointed art dolls

The title of this doll is “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” (2014). The ball jointed doll is sculpted from porcelain, painted with over glaze, and has suede lined sockets that are assembled with elastic cord. The hair of both Judith and Holofernes is from alpaca.

Judith wears a bandeau, shrug and skirt. The bra-cup bandeau is red, trimmed in matching lace. The shrug is an ephemeral ivory chiffon. Her skirt is multiple layers – from a Venetian lace ivory mini-skirt over a gold tulle sheath to an orange silk train covered by more tulle.

Holofernes wears a grimace.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith and the Easter Parade

I could not resist an homage to hats.

Easter Parade (1948) was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of the year.

In this lavish musical, Broadway star Don Hewes’ (Fred Astaire) dancing partner (Ann Miller) goes solo, and Don declares that he can make a hit performer out of the next dancer he sees. This turns out to be the inexperienced Hannah (Judy Garland), who bristles as Don tries to make her into his old partner. But as he realizes that he is falling in love with Hannah, Don knows that he must let her grow into her own kind of dancer if he wants her to reach her full potential.

A classic musical movie treasure.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2020 in No category

 

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Now for something completely different (XIX)

A little hilarity for the weekend. Because who doesn’t love videos of dogs. Especially dogs in costumes.

So I will introduce you to Stella. A yellow lab who loves to run and jump into piles of leaves. And who has her own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/dognamedstella/) and instagram account (@dognamedstella) and a youtube channel (Dog Named Stella).

Well … my dogs have Facebook pages, too.

But Stella has 191,000 followers.

Judith, the winged Princess of Barkness, is the the alter-personality of Stella who appeared 2 years ago during a deep snow.

 

She also loves mud.

 

 

And of course, she loves piles of leaves.

 

 

And bubbles. Don’t forget the bubbles.

 

 

So if you’re feeling kinda meh, scoot on over to youtube for many more videos of the joyful bliss of being a dog. A dog named Judith.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith gets around

It might be easy to dismiss Gérard de Lairesse. But he did get around.

Gérard_de_Lairesse,_Judith_(1687),_Musée_des_Beaux-Arts_de_Liège

Gérard de Lairesse (1640-1711), Judith, 1687, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liège, Belgium

De Lairesse (11 September 1641 – June 1711) was Dutch painter and art theorist. His career began during the Protestant piety of the Dutch Golden Age and embraced the introduction of the Baroque style. As a young painter, he was acquainted with Rembrandt – who painted a portrait of de Lairesse that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But de Lairesse came to reject the realism of Dutch Golden Age painters that portrayed everyday scenes and ordinary people such as soldiers, farmers, maids, and even beggars. Instead, he felt art should represent an allegory of hidden or complex meanings in biblical, mythological and historical scenes of idealized beauty, When opulence became stylish following austerity, de Lairesse’s classical French style made him one of the most popular painters in Amsterdam.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), Portrait of Gerard de Lairesse, c.1665–67, oil on canvas, 112.7×87.6 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, USA

Although contemporary sources often consider his style to be “superficial and effete” and his teaching to be responsible for the decline in Dutch painting, during his lifetime he was also an influential art theorist.  Having gone blind around 1690 due to congenital syphilis, he stopped painting and focused on lecturing twice a week (1). Eventually his very disciplined and structured ideas about the purpose and execution of art were captured in two treatises on painting and drawing: Grondlegginge ter teekenkonst (1701) and Het groot schilderboeck (1707).

Thus de Lairesse depicts Judith as an idealized women, crowned with laurels by a celestial cherub. Her breasts are covered modestly as she gazes with holy bliss at the heavens with one hand to her heart in gratitude. The fauchion is still in her other hand, but int is wiped clean if the blood from her murderous deed. In fact, there is little focus on the murder she has committed.

… except for the dim figure of the ancient maid behind Judith, grasping a bag.

… except for Holofernes’ head tucked in the shadow of Judith elbow.

It does take awhile to get around to that.

 

  1. Johnson, HA (24 May 2012). “Gerard de Lairesse: genius among the treponemes”. J R Soc Med. 97 (6): 301–3. 

 

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith makes haste

CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION: Oil on paper depicting Judith holding the head of Holofernes, which she has just decapitated with the help of her maid who is seen in the background.This theme, taken from the book of Judith, was much represented from the 17C. Judith enters the tent of Holofernes, an Assyrian general on the verge of an offensive against the city of Bethulia. He gets drunk to the point of losing consciousness, Judith decapitates him, and carries off his head. Oil on paper, dated 1919, illegible signature lower right. 38×36 without frame.

JUDITH-ET-HOLOPHERNE-1_antiquites-la-credence-paris

Unknown, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1919, Oil on Paper, 24.41 x 23.23 x 1.58 in, solo by La Crédence Antique Store, Paris, France

 

Too bad about the signature, but someone purchased a lovely painting for 1600€ (about $1750).

The swirling blues of Judith’s garment comprise the vocal point of this artwork, with the various shades contributing to the sense of movement. Her delicate yellow hood billows around her head in compliment. Almost transparent behind her is the maid, holding the decapitated head of Holofernes. Not to be forgotten, she still holds the fauchion – small in relation to the figures but bright with the blood in stark contrast to Judith’s yellow and blue garments. The bright red echoed in the red-orange garment of the maid.

And Judith’s other hand reaches back in an ambiguous gesture: to touch the trophy or to push it away? As reassurance she has secured her prize or in disgust for the treachery she committed?

While this work is clearly impressionistic, I also see the modern influence of Matisse and Chagall in the floating figure of the maid. She and Judith appear to be blown away from the scene on an invisible wind. Escaping on silent feet that do not touch the ground.

An excellent way to rush back to the safety of Bethulia.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith and the Jugs

Behold the jugs of Karen Labarga!

Karen is a prolific potter from West Palm Beach, FL, who specializes in the Southern folk art ceramic form of face jugs with devilish expressions. Judith is not her only subject: you can find more of her work on eBay under angell917. Just scanning the images of her work is a delight.

Here are her tributes to Judith, described in her own words.

Judith 1 () Karen LabargaScreen Shot 2019-12-16 at 8.30.32 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-12-16 at 8.30.15 PM.png

“Here for sale is Judith from the Bible ‘Book of Judith.” She just severed the head off the Assyrian General Holoferness and holds it up for us to view. Here’s a bit of the story: The Assyrian Army has surrounded the Jewish Army. A brave young widow named Judith decides that with God’s help she will take matters into her own hands. Judith tells the officers of the Assyrian army that she wishes to join them and because of her beauty they take her right in. She is taken to the leader Holoferness who keeps her for his own. He becomes sodden with wine and falls asleep. Then, with all her might, Judith struck him twice in the neck with his own sword, and cut off his head! She left the Assyrian camp with the head in a bag, but when she arrived back at the Jewish camp she held up the Head of the General Holoferness for all to see and said a lot of thanks to God. The head was hung up on the parapet and when the Assyrians woke and saw it hanging over the Jewish camp the fled in confusion. This face jug of Judith is 9.5″ high and is 9″ wide at the elbows. Judith has black hair that is parted into two braided buns. She wears a shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a brown skirt. Holofernes’ head hangs by his brown hair in her raised left hand. The eyes, teeth and the artist logo skull stamp are made of porcelain. The eyes have blue melted glass. On the back of the jug, the words “Judith and Holofernes” are carved into the clay. This is a one-of-a-kind hand made artwork. The artist signature and the number are carved into the bottom. This jug is made by me, Karen Labarga, a folk artist living in Plantation, Florida. If you have any questions, please ask. Please check out my other jug for sale; a Martin Brothers style devil jug.”

 

Judith 2 () Karen Labarga.png

“I’m sure you’ve all seen the famous paintings depicting the Apocryphal book of Judith in the Old Testament. The Book of Judith, relates the delivery of Israel from it’s enemy, Holofernes. The lovely widow Judith went into the enemy camp with a plan. As one of the enemy, she was brought before the Assyrian General Holofernes, who immediately succumbed to Judith’s beauty and charm. Holofernes invited Judith to his tent. She got him drunk and he fell asleep. Judith cut off his head and rushed back to the Israelite camp with it. She had it hung on the parapet of the wall. When the Assyrians awoke and saw the decapitated head of thier General, all was over. Then all the Israelite army overwhelmed them. The height of this whiskey jug is 9″ and the width is 10” across, elbow to wrist. It is a completely functional jug made of stoneware and fired in a high fire reduction kiln. The teeth and eyes are porcelain, as are the eyes and teeth of the decapitated head. On the back is a skull stamp, typical to many of the Labarga jugs. Karen Labarga is a folk artist living in Florida. The bottom is signed, numbered, dated and says Book of Judith 13-8. Please email with any questions before bidding. Many THANKS to all our wonderful customers. We have never used the second chance offer so please remember that anything truely from ebay will be located in your “MY MESSEGES” in your “MY EBAY” area. Don’t forget to check out my other auction.”

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2020 in No category

 

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Judith in less than six feet

Judith () Malyk

Alex Malyk (1959- ), Judith and Holofernes, , oil on canvas, 31.5 x 43.3 x 0.8 in, http://www.saatchiart.com/account/artworks/71204

Well, my friends, it’s Pandemic time. Time to maintain your distance. Time to shelter in. Time to wash your hands like you never have before.

Time to post to your blog.

So I restart my continuous search for Judith with an example of what NOT to do when it comes to social distancing.

And don’t touch your face. Or let anyone else touch your face

Just think how that might have saved Holofernes.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2020 in Cacciatore, No category

 

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