Category Archives: Distracted

absent, distant, forgetful, heedless, moony, oblivious, preoccupied, remote — in which Judith is depicted as unemotionally detached

Judith and the tassels

Judith (1608) Linen embroidery:Leinenstickerei

Unknown artist, Linen embroidery, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1608, Half-linen, linen, silk, gold and silver threads, 60 x 71 cm, Swiss National Museum, Zürich, CH


It is definitely embroidery, but … why?

I can’t imagine wearing it as a scarf  (“Oh, How lovely that looks around your neck!”)

I can’t envision as a placement (“Just set your plate right here over the gaping stub of the neck … Don’t worry about the stains.”)

I can’t see it as a kerchief for a bedside table (“Don’t worry about a thing, dear.  Lay your spectacles on the kerchief and your scabbard by the bed, and then rest your heavy head on the pillow.  I’ll won’t leave you … “)

I suppose it’s just a … warning notice?

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , ,

Judith, delighted and disturbed

After tackling some of the artwork of Judith that is unclear – both literally and figuratively – it is comforting to return to a classical, straight-forward version of Judith and Holofernes, isn’t it?

Judith () Tommaso Vivo

Tommaso De Vivo (1787–1884), “Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes,” c. 1800, oil on canvas, 298 x 187 cm, Museo Dell’Appartamento Storico Del Palazzo Reale, Naples, IT


Although this appears to be a typical depiction of a conflicted Judith (“Should I or shouldn’t I attack this drunken lout and then butcher him? Let me think for a moment. I mean, it’s not like I do this every day”), there are two elements that are worth noting – one delightful and one disturbing.

Delightful:   The maid in the shadows to the left, keeping watch outside the opening of the tent.  Someone needs to be paying attention and she seems like the one to be practical.

Disturbing:  What IS the large cylindrical object in the upper right corner? I know we are all trained to see inappropriate images in simple cartoon characters these days – and yes, it appears to merely be a quiver of arrows that goes with the large bow.  But if Disney Studios can get into trouble with innocent underwater mermaid castles, then the unusually large and prominently displayed metallic sheath of arrows is alarming .   Maybe the maid should be paying attention to the other side of the room?

1 Comment

Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , , ,

Judith is sketchy

Here are three of the most notable works by French painter William Laparra


William Laparra, “Head of a girl in a green turban,” 1912, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Paris, FR

William Laparra (French artist, 1873-1920) Woman in Turban

William Laparra, “Girl in a Turban,” 1919, Musée de la Piscine, Roubaxr, France


William Laparra, “La piscine de Bethsaida (Pool of Bethesda),” 1898, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Art, Paris, FR

… and here is Judith.

Judith et Holopherne () William LaParra

William Laparra (1873 -1920), “Judith and Holofernes,”  (c.1900), oil on cardboard, 33 x 41 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, FR



William Laparra (1873 -1920), “Judith and Holofernes,”  (c.1900), oil on canvas, 33 x 41 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, FR


Can we safely assume that these were preparatory works to a more complete composition of Judith showing Holofernes’ head to the Bethulians? And can I note the similarities to composition to “The Pool of Bethesda”?

Oddly, at age 22 Laparra won the Prix de Rome –  the French scholarship of the Academy of Fine Arts for young artists to train in Italy- with the painting of Bethesda.  The sketches of Bethulia are not dated, but the prone figure in the lower left is remarkably similar to Laparra’s winning artwork.  Thus it appears that at some point in his career he planned to retry the composition – moving it from New Testament with an angel as the central figure to Old Testament with Judith as the center of attention.

I am so disappointed it was never completed. The implications are that Judith would have been a beauty. And possibly would have sported an elaborate turban.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , , ,

Judith wraps it up

Tapestry.  Wasn’t that an album by Carole King I played until the grooves were almost smooth?

You can tell I am getting to the end of my list as the quality of the images devolves.  And the quality of the commentary devolves,too.  Ah, well … I will keep trying.

But I leave the woven art behind with this witty title: “Judith leaves besieged Bethalie slice the head of Holofernes and singing in front of the Assyrians a sublime hymn.”  Which may have lost something in the translation – but the sublime hymn has me in stitches.



Unknown artist,Judith leaves besieged Bethalie slice the head of Holofernes and singing in front of the Assyrians a sublime hymn.” 1600s, Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave 275 x 490 cm, auctioned by Versailles Auctions Perrin-Royere-LaJeunesse, 09 November 2003, Lot 115, Versailles, FR


Unknown artist, Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, Musée Départemental de la Tapisserie, Aubusson, FR


BWUAHAHAHAH!! Has me in stitches!!

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , ,

Judith weighs in

This topic is getting heavy.  About one hundred pounds of heavy.


Unknown artist, “Judith Dining in the Camp of Holofernes,” 17th century, Flemish tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, 343 x 318 cm, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, US


This tapestry of Judith and Holofernes having a bite to eat is about 11 feet tall and 11 feet wide – and probably weighs about 100 pounds.  Not to mention it is over 400 years old.  As I look at this and the other weavings, I began to wonder:  how do you move one of these tapestries across the world without damaging it?

I found a very detailed article from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the subject here.  Let’s just say: to travel thousands of miles by land and air, it requires:

  • a really big plane – which can only take-off from one of three airports in Europe
  • to carry a really big crate with a really big tube
  • to arrive in the US where it sits to acclimatize to the temperature and humidity of its new (temporary) home
  • before being gently transported to the exhibition space where it is unrolled
  • then carefully attached with heavy-duty Velcro (!!) to a long wooden slat with hooks
  • which are threaded with thin copper wires to secure the tapestry to the wall
  • after it has been lifted by a rope and pulley system from the floor to the wall.
  • All very, very carefully.

I will never sneer at a tapestry again.  It might fall on me.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , , ,

Judith hangs with Jael

Serial posting.  Why didn’t I think of that before?

Yesterday began with trying to unravel the mystery of an unidentified tapestry.  Which led to the history and geography of tapestries.  Which led to the connection to four other tapestries with Judith as the subject. Which today leads to the south of France … but not the sandy, sunny south.  The mountainous, snowy south.

In the heart of the Pays d’Asse is the ancient city of Senez, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.  The present Romanesque church dates 1176 but was nearly destroyed in the French Wars of Religion (1562–98).  It was rebuilt in 1750, to add an episcopal palace next to the cathedral – and after completion of the restoration Monseigneur de Ruffo Bonneval (bishop of Senez 1783-1784) presented eight tapestries in celebration.  All but one were Aubusson tapestries in wool and silk,  representing different biblical scenes from the Old Testament – among them Judith holding a sword in one hand (the head of Holofernes in the other) and Jael a hammer in hand.  What a pair!


Unknown artist, “Judith holding the head of Holofernes.” Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, Cathedral of Senez, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, FR



Unknown artist, “Jael holding a hammer.” Aubusson tapestry: Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave, Cathedral of Senez, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, FR



… which leads me to wonder:  how many grooms had second thoughts about their weddings when they stood before these wall hangings in the cathedral?


(1) L’inventaire Général du Patrimoine Culturel, Les objets mobiliers  – les tentures: Les tapisseries des Flandres 


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , , ,

Judith unravels

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned.

This lovely tapestry was supposed to be in the collection of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France – but it is not there.  I am almost 100% sure it is not there because the France Ministry of Culture is meticulous about cataloging every work of art in collections of public and private museums of France in a central online database, Joconde – and this tapestry is not listed.

Judith (1600s) Flemish tapestry?

Unknown, “Judith holding the head of Holophernes,” 17th century, Flemish tapestry, ???; photo by Herve Lewandowski

Here are the pieces of the puzzle with which I have to work:

  • a tapestry
  • of Judith
  • in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille OR in Lille OR in France
  • in a French museum thus in the online collection of Joconde
  • in a museum that is not in France
  • photographed by Herve Lewandowski

And thus far – it’s all a dead end.  Unless I get up the nerve to contact the photographer.

If I can not locate the tapestry, at least I can figure out the style and possible date, perhaps? To satisfy my insatiable curiosity?  The pieces of the puzzle with which I have to work on that task:

  • columns laden with fruit and tulips
  • center title in the upper border “Fortitudo Judith” – and then something I can’t read which is probably the name of the artist.

A little about the history of tapestries:

One of the most expensive and time-consuming crafts, tapestry-making only truly flourished in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, at the hands of French and (later) Flemish weavers. This growth of tapestry art coincided with the era of Romanesque and Gothic art – both part of a religious revival, when architecture, sculpture and stained glass were also harnessed by the Church to illustrate Biblical stories to illiterate congregations.

The finest European tapestries are considered to have been made by the Gobelins Royal Factory in Paris, while major tapestry-making centres existed at ArrasTournaiBrusselsAubussonFellitin and in the Beauvais factory in Paris. (1)

Arras had been the center of activity, but after it was plundered by Louis XI in 1447,  tapestry makers fled to Flanders and created a new center of European woven textiles.  That would include the city of Lille, which identifies itself as “Flemish” in the geographical and historical sense.  The style of tapestries in Flanders went from “mille flour” in the 15th century to significant improvements in perspective and composition with a wide range of colors and highly ornate borders in the 16th century. The Flemish painter Bernard van Orley (1492-1541) was most well-known for combining late Gothic realism and Renaissance idealism with the art of the tapestry medium.

But this Judith does not resemble the borders created by Orley. Making comparisons across various tapestry designs, the fruity column design appears to  be the brain-child of either Michiel Coxie (1499–1592), Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), or Justus van Egmont (1601–1674).  All three men were primarily painters, who moved to Brussels and designed various tapestries in their spare time.  Wait a minute … that sickly pink color reminds me of Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) from Judith in Jeopardy.  So at least I am in the right time period.  And that will have to be enough … for now.

In the meantime, I did locate four other tapestries with Judith as the subject!!  Stay tuned tomorrow …

(1) Art Encyclopedia, Tapestry Art: Belgian Tapestries.  a must-read if you need a 101 on tapestries


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Distracted


Tags: , , , , ,