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Judith is plastered

One of the most iconic images of Judith is Donatello’s bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence – discussed in “Judith enters politics” back in 2011.  While my holiday will NOT take me to Florence (this time!), it will allow me to visit a plaster cast taken from the original.

Why a plaster cast?  According to the V&A:

The collecting of plaster casts reached the height of its popularity in the mid to late 19th century. At that time few people in the UK could afford to travel to mainland Europe, so museums acquired reproductions of important monuments and works of art to complement their collections. Art schools collected plaster casts so students could study and draw from the best examples of classical and Renaissance sculpture. Individuals and collectors bought casts for their own personal interest or to decorate their homes.

Plaster casts were so popular, in fact, that V&A has two “Cast Courts.”  The East Court (Gallery 46a) has a high ceiling and has casts of Italian monuments. The West Court (Gallery 46b) is topped by a roof of glass that admits sunlight and predominantly contains casts of Northern European and Spanish sculpture and Trajan’s Column. The Cast Courts opened to the public in July 1873 with almost 100 reproductions to provide an eclectic and “aristocratic grand tour for the armchair explorer, conveniently compressed into two rooms.” (1)

In August 1892 the Italian Government gave the rare opportunity to cast Donatello’s sculpture.  I mean, obviously they were not going to sell off one of the most important autographed work by Donatello and obviously there was a clammer to see it but those who could not travel to Florence. The casting was done by the Florentine-based plaster cast manufacturer, Oronzio Lelli — the official mould maker of the Royal Galleries in Florence.  Oddly, it does not reside in the Cast Courts but is on display in the Simon Sainsbury Gallery in the Medieval and Renaissance gallery (Room 64b).  <sniff> Probably because they had to make room for THREE plaster casts of David in the Cast Court, those misogynists.


Oronzio Lelli (maker), Judith and Holofernes, 1893 (cast), plaster cast from Donatello’s bronze sculpture (ca. 1455) , 540.3 x 93 x 103 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Of course in modern times, reproductions have fallen into disfavor.  When the galleries were once crowded with plaster cast reproductions, they have now been thinned — but still give an idea to the space that thrilled the Victorians and admiration for the works they reproduced.

See you at the V&A!

(1) V&A’s cast courts of beautiful fakes reopen after three years

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Posted by on April 4, 2015 in Exploring


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Judith and the moment of tension

If you want to know anything about Hugo Von Habermann the Elder, ask Sabine Scheele – a woman who wrote her masters thesis about Hugo von Habermann and then created the website  Maybe I am getting lazy, but her website covers every aspect of Von Habermann, so … there really is not much more to add.

Von Habermann’s Judith was completed early in his career, when he was concerned with topics from the Bible and classical history.  Later, he would focus on portrait painting.  As Scheele describes the scene (translated from German):

Habermann opted for a scene in the Judith story not yet shown up to this time; the provocatively dressed widow bends over Holofernes, to get to his sword, and then decapitate him. By this design is created great tension within the image and the viewer, especially also because the painting is almost life-size.


Judith (1873) Hugo Von Habermann the Elder

Hugo Von Habermann the Elder (1849–1929), “Judith ind Holofernes.” 1873, oil on canvas, 176 x 114 cm, auctioined by Galerie Konrad Bayer Munich GR


Sorry I could not find the life-sized version, but I suspect it is very dramatic.  It certainly does create the tension that Scheele describes:  the slow and stealthy movements of Judith, the expectation on her mind, the fear that one false move could ruin the plan, the determination to complete what she has started.

A later entry to my collection of Judith’s, but a worthy addition and important part of the story.

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Story


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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?

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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Distracted


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Judith studies anatomy

She is small – but mighty.  And she is somewhere out there.  I just don’t know where.

UNEONE since 1993 holofernes and judith

Fidel Ordonez (Uneone) (1974 – ), “Judith and Holofernes”

I present the street art of Uneone, an artist born in Mexico City and based in Calgary.  His artwork has been displayed in galleries, contemporary spaces, wall buildings magazines and books since 2003 throughout Mexico, Europe and States.  In his website, he states the focus of his work is the relationship between disorder, pattern and texture – most recently “human figurative monsters inspired by the eighteenth century by diferent artists who ilustrated the Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (Divine Comedy) he enjoys the interplay of lines details and texture and strives to create a visual reaction within each piece.”

My thoughts on this piece are circumscribed by the limited context and actual borders.  I am not sure I am seeing the entire artwork.  But with that qualification, it is still obvious that this is a monumental struggle in which Holofernes represents the monster with his sharp, grotesque angles – although Judith appears rather harsh as well.  Especially with her orbital socket that looks like it is fractured, probably in the knock-down-drag-out fight with her intended victim.

Yet there is much else to be gleaned from this depiction, from which –

  • I learned a lot about the muscles and tendons of the neck and shoulders.


  • I learned a little about the pros and cons of buttock augmentation

butt aug

  • I have concerns about the lethal nature of Holofernes’ phallus


  • I approve of Judith’s Grace Kelly hairstyle



Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Gory


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Judith brings the pain killers

Poor Holofernes.

It’s been a long day and there was so much wine.

The music was loud and the soldiers were cheering.

This woman just kept talking and talking about how great it was going to  be when he moved into her villa in Bethulia.

Except the weather here is so ridiculously hot and humid, which leaves a body feeling like a heavy wet rag.

And then the pollen count is up, which makes his sinuses swell like sheep bladders after the rain.

Oiy, what to do for this headache.


Judith (c. 1880) Neuhaus

Fritz Neuhaus (1852-1922), “Judith und Holofernes,” c.1880, oil on canvas, 107 x 171.5 cm, auctioned by Schloss Ahlden, December 26, 2005 (Lot #1668)


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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Whorey


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Judith, the student

I like to promote new artists as well as the Old Masters.  Today I share with you the work of Thia, aka =Thianari.  She is a little shy, but you might find her in the shadows.

Judith (2010) Thianari

=Thianari, “Judith and Holofernes,” 2010, digital art,

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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Cacciatore


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Judith and her Father

No one ever mentioned her father, but she had to have one.  So in honor of Father’s Day, I will make one up.

And the easiest choice is Giorgio Vasari, the Tuscan painter, sculptor and author of the Lives of the Painters.  So here is to Mr. Judith – who originated the his biographical account of art history and painted one hell of a Judith – with a repost of Judith works out.

Giorgio Vasari, “Judith,” 1554, Oil on panel, 108×80 cm., St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Story


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