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Category Archives: Glory

acclaim, accolade, applause, credit, distinction, homage, honor, kudos, laud, laurels, props, praise, renown – in which Judith is depicted as glorious

Judith, the broken woman

Sometimes artists get lost in the shuffle of time, and their art is shuffled as well.  Such is the fate of René Letourneur, a French sculptor who flourished after the first World War and until the 1970’s.  A medal winner at his first exhibition – the 1922 Salon des Artistes Français,- he went on to win the Médaille d’Or at the Exposition des Arts décoratifs et industriels in 1925, and then the Premier Grand Prix de Rome for sculpture in 1926.  It was this last win that connects him to Judith, since she was the subject of his winning sculpture.

Alas, there are two pieces of data that lead to the actual sculpture of Judith:  a newspaper clipping and a catalog of works from the collections of the L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

The newspaper clipping:  This is the only contemporary photo of Judith, shown in it’s original state.  It must have been a beauty to win the Premier Grand Prix de Rome – established in 1663 during the reign of Louis XIV of France, the French scholarship for arts students that pays for them to study in Rome for three to five years.

Judith (1926) René Letourneur

Chicago Tribune August 22, 1926 edition from the Janet A. Ginsburg Chicago Tribune Collection, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, US

After this win and three years in Rome, Letourneaur was appointed a commission from the Ecuadorian government to create a monument to Simon Bolivar.  The result was a gigantic bronze frieze (12 x 10 m) depicting the nation’s liberator supported by winged victories, leading his men to triumph. During WWII, he joined the French Resistance and worked as a journalist for the Panorama review.  After the war, he continue to combine art and architecture in official commissions such as the war memorial in Alençon, facade of the Gambetta lycée in Arras, and two statues on the Pont du Pecq.  He finished his career as an art teacher. (1)

And what about Judith?

The catalog:  Students of the L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts maintain a digital catalog of collections inherited from the Royal Academies, augmented by prestigious donations and school work until 1968.(2)  This is the only place to find the prize-winning Judith – now broken and stained.  And missing Holofernes’ head as well as her hand.  My guess is she exists in a storage room somewhere with only memories of her former splendor.

 

Judith (1926) René Letourneur 2

René Letourneur (1898-1990), “Judith, after returning to Bethulia beheaded Holofernes, pulls from her purse that face it shows to the crowd,” 1926, Ronde-bosse en plâtre, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, FR

 

Age is so unkind to women.  Even those made of plaster …

 

(1) Catherine Bedel, The works of the sculptor, René Letourneur, on sale in a Paris gallery,  Le Monde, 19 March 2004.

(2) Cat’zArts, Judith, rentrant à Béthulie après avoir tranché la tête à Holopherne, tire de son sac cette tête qu’elle montre à la foule. 

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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in Glory

 

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Judith and the Nine Worthies

I had heard of the Seven Dwarves and the Eight Maids A-Milking, but never have I heard of The Nine Worthies – until today.

The Nine Worthies were characters selected in the Middle Ages to personify the ideals of chivalry and whose symbols became the basis for heraldic imagery.  They were called Les Neuf Preux in France, in Italy i Nove Prodi, and in Germany Neun Helden – meaning “Nine Valiants” – which suggests the characters were selected to represent soldierly courage and generalship. (1)   The original Nine Worthies depicted in a Hans Burgkmayr engraving (1516) included –

  • three pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar)
  • three Jews from the Old Testament (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus)
  • three Christians from the Middle Ages (King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon)

Out of love of symmetry, the Middle Ages also produced the Nine Worthy Women (Les Neuf Preusesneun Heldinnen), and although the lists often vary, they always include Esther and Judith (2):

  • three pagans (Lucretiawife of Brutus, Veturia – mother of Coriolanus, Verginia – whose death prompted the re-establishment of the Roman Republic)
  • three Jewesses from the Old Testament (Esther, Judith and Jael)
  • three Christians from the Middle Ages (St Helena – mother of Constantine the Great, St Brigita of Sweden, and St Elisabeth of Hungary).
hans-burgkmair-d-ae-three-jewish-heroes-esther-judith-and-jael-art-poster-print

Hans Burgkmair, “Three Jewish heroine: Esther, Judith and Jael,” 1516

 

The heraldic symbols for Judith are described as Gules on a bend sinister argent a ? sable” – which somehow looks like “Gulls on a bent spinster agent named Sable.”   Actually  in the language of heraldry,

  • gules – either the color red or a region of vertical lines
  • bend sinister – a band running from the upper dexter (the bearer’s right side and the viewer’s left) corner of the shield to the lower sinister (the bearer’s left side, and the viewer’s right)
  • argent – the background color, Silver
  • sable – Black, somewhere in there

One of the best depictions of the Nine Worthy Women is found in Pierrefonds Castle, Oise, France.  The castle is a medieval structure that had fallen into ruin, but Napoleon III commissioned its repair which took over 25 years (1857 to 1885) and produced an idealised interior typical of the romantic period. (3)  One of the most imposing features is the gallery of Les Neuf Preux and Les Neuf Preuses.

Judith (1860-85) Nine Worthies1

“Les Neuf Preuses,” 1860-1885, Pierrefonds Castle, Oise, France

Judith (1860-1885) Nine Worthies2

“Les Neuf Preuses”, 1860-1885, Pierrefonds Castle, Oise, France

 

 

Tsk, it’s too hard to see Judith second from the left. So I’ll give you a little help.

Judith (1860-85) Pierrefonds Castle 1

“Judith in Les Neuf Preuses,” 1860-1885, Pierrefonds Castle, Oise, France

Judith () Nine Worthies2

“Judith in Les Neuf Preuses,” 1860-1885, Pierrefonds Castle, Oise, France

Yes, definitely a worthy depiction of Judith. On a pedestal. Wearing a crown. Welding a very imposing sword.  I’d consider this to be satisfactory – even if the shield does not match the previous description.

 

 

(1) Cyclopaedia:  The Nine Worthies.

(2) François Velde, Heraldica: The Nine Worthies.

(3) Eupedia, Pierrefonds Castle Travel Guide.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Glory

 

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Judith falls in love (again)

The New York Times, Art & Design Section, January 28, 2015: “Kehinde Wiley Puts a Classical Spin on His Contemporary Subjects,” By Deborah Solomon

Kehinde Wiley began thinking about the stereotypes that shadow black men long before events in Ferguson, Mo., pushed the phrase “unarmed black man” back into the headlines and inaugurated a new wave of the civil rights movement…

Now 37, Mr. Wiley is one of the most celebrated painters of his generation. He is known for vibrant, photo-based portraits of young black men (and occasionally women) who are the opposite of scared — they gaze out at us coolly, their images mashed up with rococo-style frills and empowering poses culled from art history.

And as testament to the opposite of scared – bold, brave, cool, courageous, confident, encouraged – Wiley stands in front of his latest portrait of (ta-DA) Judith!!

Kehinde Wiley (2015) Chad Batka for The New York Times

Kehinde Wiley (2015), photo by Chad Batka for The New York Times

 

I loved the first Judith by Wiley this first time I saw her, discussed in (obviously) Judith Falls in Love on March 29, 2013.  This second Judith – actually Judith Beheading Holofernes – is part of Wiley’s first museum retrospective “A New Republic” at the Brooklyn Museum, opening February 20.  It then travels to museums in Fort Worth, Seattle and Richmond, VA.  So I know get to decide where I would most like to view this Judith as we travel the US of A.  In which case, I can obtain the medium and dimensions to add to my specs.

But in the meantime, this is the best I can do.  Judith dressed as a Capulet on a ground of orange nasturtiums and light blue fleur-de-lis – swinging the head of a very feminine Holofernes.

And holding a Very Pointy Knife.  Which I don’t think is used for food preparation.

Judith (2012)

Kehinde Wiley, “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” 2012, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, USA. Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

 

Thanks to oatmealgirl09 for bringing this to my attention!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Glory

 

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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 in the stalls

Far away from here – west of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of North Holland, and south of the North Sea – lies the Dutch province of Fryslân (formerly known as Friesland).   And in the province of Fryslân lies the town of Bolsward, where stands the Martinikerk – a medieval church originally dedicated to Saint Martin.  And in the Martinikerk there are superlative carved oak choir stalls that date from about 1450.

The names of the carvers who embellished the Mediaeval choirs have, as a rule, been lost; and fire and iconoclasm have destroyed most of their work.  Some few relics, however, of the splendor of wood-carving as it existed before the Renaissance are still to be found. For elaborate oak carving of the fifteenth century, it would be hard to find a more interesting example than the carved oak stalls in the great church of Bolsward (Broederkerk) in Holland. (1)

The stall that interests me is behind the pulpit …

Bolsward - Martinikerk 1466 - Main Nave : Choir - View ENE on Preekstoel : Pulpit 1662 - Gothic Choirbenches 1490

Martinikerk, Main Nave and Choir View ENE on Pulpit (1662), Bolsward, Fryslân, NL – photo by txllxt TxllxT, http://www.panoramio.com

 

… on the North side, on the second set of stalls, in the upper side panel …

Bolsward, Martinikerk, Choir View NE on Gothic Choirbenches detail 1490

Martinikerk, Choir View NE on Gothic Choirbenches (1490), Bolsward, Fryslân, NL – photo by txllxt TxllxT, http://www.panoramio.com

 

… because that is where you find Judith and her maid in the act of decapitating Holofernes in his tent, under the intricate walls of the city of Bethulia, while his army of 3 men eat and drink in the corner …

Judith (1450) Martinikerk, stalls, north side, bench end 2

Martinikerk, choir stalls, north side bench end, “Judith” (1450) – photo by groenling, http://www.flickr.com

 

… and then they cleverly slip out the back of the tent to place the severed head in a bag to return to the city.

Judith (1450) Martinikerk, stalls, north side, bench end - back 2

Martinikerk, choir stalls, north side bench end, “Judith” (1450) – photo by groenling, http://www.flickr.com

Judith (1450) Martinikerk, stalls, north side, bench end - back

Martinikerk, choir stalls, north side bench end – detail, “Judith” (1450) – photo by groenling, http://www.flickr.com

 

(1) Esther Singleton, Dutch and Flemish Furniture.  London: : Hodder and Stoughton, 1907.

 

Honestly, the main attraction in the Martinikerk in Bolsward is the massive pipe organ built in 1781 by Albertus Anthoni Hinsz – not Judith.  I know very little about pipe organs – except they are huge, produce visceral vibrations of sound, and are very difficult to play.  Apparently this area of the Netherlands is known as The Organ Garden of Europe.  The following video very nicely takes you on a tour of Bolsward and the interior of Martinikerk to the gentle sounds of the organ played by Kees Nottrot and Jan Mulder.

A tremendous thank you to the talented photography of groenling on www.flickr.com and  on http://www.panoramio.com  – and the video talents of SuperWillbee – whose contributions are the next best thing to travel.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Glory

 

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Judith: Revealed in Native Art

I am so pleased the day has arrived to share a special find: the Native Art of Jan Krlicka.

Judith (2010) Jan Krlicka

Jan Krlicka (1954- ), “Judith and Holofernes,” 2010, polychromed wood, gold leaf, varnish, http://www.pinterest.com/jozefsquare/naive-art-self-taught-artists/

 

Krlicka is a self-taught wood carver and painter from Slovakia.   His work conveys a Medieval quality but vividly colored and delicately touched with accents of gold.  Depicting Biblical themes, the simplicity of his carving elicits a visceral connection to the emotion of the story – at least for me.  In “Judith and Holofernes,” he has created the sense of her vulnerability as she steals away from the camp, her concern that she has carried out the will of her God, and the strength she has brought to the task.  There are no gawdy clothes and there is no celebration, only focus on her destination lit by a few stars and the safety of her town in the distance.

It is a special pleasure to share this artwork after corresponding with Jan’s daughter.  I will let her tell the story in her own words.

Thank you for your message. The work was made by made dad, Jan Krlicka for my 26th birthday and I absolutely love his interpretation. My name is Judita, which is a Slovak equivalent of English Judith. He’d worked on several Old Testament subjects for different customers but I think his Judith really stands out.  The relief was exhibited last year in the exhibition organised by Slovak National Gallery in Pezinok. The gallery specialises on Naive/Self taught art and it was a great recognition for my dad to exhibit his works there.I will pass your note on to my Dad, as I am sure your appreciation of his work will make him very happy. He occasionally takes commissions for sculptures, if someone has some particular theme in mind. Prices usually correspond to what’s online, usually size is what matters, sometimes type of wood, some are heavier, harder than the other.

Once again, many thanks for writing, all the best,
Judy and Jozef
jozefSquare

 

And the shared love of the carving makes this even more exceptional to me.

More of Jan’s remarkable talent can be seen at jozefSquare under Sculpture and Paintings.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Glory

 

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Judith takes the Runway

Once again, the Apocryphal story of an ancient Israelite that inspired a symbolist painter in turn-of-the century Austria has inspired a contemporary fashion designer to create a gilded gown to carry on the tale of Judith.

Judith (2013) L’Wren Scott

L’Wren Scott gown, Catwalk show, London Fashion Week 2013 (Fall/Winter Collection), Sunday, 17 February 2013 (1 PM), Venue: 1 Great George Street, London

L’Wren Scott is an American fashion designer, costume designer, stylist and model who began her life as Luann Bambrough in Utah. Scott’s first collection was “Little Black Dress,” launched in 2006. The collection presented an array of black dresses, including her now famous Headmistress dress worn by Madonna. Other famous repeat clients include Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Naomi Campbell, Reese Witherspoon, Christina Hendricks, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, Uma Thurman, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Mick Jagger would wear her clothing but seems to prefer to put the squeeze on Scott while she is wearing it.

For London Fashion Week 2013, Scott pulled out a piece of history to satisfy a whim.

“I’m having a gold moment,” L’Wren declared at a fitting a couple of weeks ago. She’d been researching the relationship between the Austrian Secessionist artist Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose portrait he painted. “He kept applying more and more gold because he didn’t want to finish the painting. She was married. I think people figured out what was going on in the end!” (1)

just a little something to slip into when your Rolling Stone says “let’s spend the night together”?

(1) Sarah Mower, L’Wren Scott / Fall 2013 RTW, Vogue, February 17, 2013

Edit: March 17, 2014 – L’Wren Scott dies of an apparent suicide. Gone too soon.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Glory

 

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