Tag Archives: Russian

Judith is tanked

Are these titles suggesting a theme … or is it just me?


Tankard from Scandinavia and Russia, 1680-1699, Silver, gilt, nielloed and engraved, 18.2 x 20.2 x 16 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK


Oh those Russians!  It appears they took a Scandinavian tankard and applied a Greek technique to produce this opulent vessel for drinking.  The technique is called “niello” — created by pressing and melting a black compound of silver, copper or lead sulphides into engraved lines on a silver surface to produce a dramatic contrast between the black decoration and shiny silver, creating intricate plant and flower patterns on metal.  In Moscow, the technique was influenced by Greek jewellers who arrived in the 1660s and brought the Turkish method to the Russian goldsmiths.

But enough about metalwork.  The important part is the subject of the decoration: a background of a Turkish-inspired carpet of tiny flowers and leaf tendrils in which sits engraved birds, and four Old Testament scenes from the Bible.  The selection of these scenes always fascinates me, trying to understand what the artist or client was trying to express with the themes that include Judith.  Sometimes it’s biblical victors (David, Joshua, etc.), sometimes it’s biblical heroines (Jael, Susannah, etc.), and sometimes it’s just … I dunno.  In this case it’s Judith and Holofernes (at the front), Samson and Delilah (on one side), the Temptation of Joseph (on the other side) and the Judgement of Solomon (on the lid).  So probably some virtues the drinker wished to extoll while he was slogging his ale — with the wisdom of Solomon being his last view when he closed the lid for the evening.

Or maybe his wife made him add the Judith part to make up for the weak-willed Samson?

See you at the V&A!

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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Exploring


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Judith in a den of iniquity

I have never experienced an opium den, but I bet it feels like viewing the opulent, decadent, intoxicating illustrations of Vania Zouravliov. Without the withdrawal and risk of arrest.

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 1

“Russian-born Vania Zouravliov was inspired from an early age by influences as diverse as The Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, early Disney animation and North American Indians. Something of a child prodigy in his homeland, he was championed by many influential classical musicians including Ashkenazi, Spivakov and Menuhin. He even had television programs made about him and was introduced to famous communist artists, godfathers of social realism, who told him that his work was from the Devil.”

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 3

“By the age of 13, Vania Zouravliov was exhibiting internationally, visited Canterbury several times as well as Paris, Colmar and Berlin. He subsequently studied in the UK, and during this time began creating illustrations for The Scotsman and comics for Fantagraphics and Dark Horse in the US. His most recent projects have been for Beck’s The Information and National Geographic.” (1)

Judith () Vania Zouravliov 2


Many thoughts come pouring from these lavish lithographs, evoking connections to ancient myths, exotic locales, and inspiring artists of earlier times.  I feel a little like Joseph Campbell bringing in multiple elements from –

  • Japanese Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world” — especially shunga or “picture of spring,” in which “spring” is a euphemism for sex — as portrayed by Utamaro in his depictions of courtesans
  • Orientalism, the mixture of languor, sex, violence, bondage and exoticism that is seen in the odalisque paintings of Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  • Traditional Persian attire, with intricate textured fabrics and layers of jewels – topped by an elaborate turban.
  • Illustrative fairie tales of Arthur Rackham and Kay Rasmus Nielsen that layer delicate fantasies behind the routines of everyday life
  • Costuming for ballet, as typified by Leon Baskt’s creations of beauty in motion
  • Art NouveauxAubrey Beardsley comes immediately to mind with his black and white illustrations against a white background and his themes of perversion and erotica.  Alphonse Mucha’s blushing and haloed young women in flowing, Neoclassical robes, surrounded by a profusion of flowers.
  • Gothic tales, such as Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • Pin-up art, in which Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas celebrate the female form in positions to exaggerate and accentuate feminine sexual characteristics.
  • Erotica, which hovers along the mutable border of respectful admiration of the beauty of sex and the pornographic perversion of submission and suffering.  You will have to be the judge, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who said “I know it when I see it.”

It’s all a little overwhelming – but a source of endless flights of imagination.

The Head () Vania Zouravliov

(1) Big Active, Illustration: Vania Zouravliov.

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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Whorey


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Judith and the winemaker

Says the artist of his interests:

… the most important and valuable thing for me is winemaking. In Kakheti I make my own wine. I have different kinds of grape and I make three or four wines from it. I make red wine – saperavi, green wine – manavskoye, and white wine – rkatsiteli. I use my own recipes and that is why I manage to make absolutely special wine. I feel that my power and the power of winemaking process join together and that helps my wine be exactly as I want it to be. Not only taste is important in wine, but also the way it influences a person. One doesn’t go drunk of good wine, but fills with creative, constructive power. Wine is a living being. It is in a certain way like a human being. Young wine is as a teenager restless, and then it calms down, becomes steadier, mature. (1)

Judith (2000) Besik Arbolishvili

Besik Arbolishvili, “Judith,” 2000

So here lies Judith giving Holofernes the “come hither” look.   Young and restless, then calmed down, steadier, mature.  Shall we commence the uncorking?

(1) Art Seven Oil Painting Gallery: Besik Arbolishvili

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Whorey


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Judith mixes it up

Sergei Blumin, “Judith Displaying Holofernes Head,” 2009-2010 Mix media sculpture installation,

I am a little confused.   My first look suggested that the figure on the far left was Judith – based on her bloody tunic – but now I see it is clearly Holofernes.    However, the figure on the far right then seemed to be the likely candidate because she has her arm raised to display the head of Holofernes.   And if I stretch my interpretive skills even further, I could make a case for the central figure being Judith as well – more likely with the finery and what could be a sword in her right hand.

Dang, if I could only find a name tag.

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Cacciatore


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Judith has second thoughts

… but they don’t stop her.

Sergei Blumin, "Judith over the Sleeping Holofernes," 1985, Oil on canvas,

Sergei Blumin, "Judith with the Holofernes Head," 1985, Oil on canvas,

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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Cacciatore


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Judith plays it cool

Edward Morozov, "Judith," 1995, Oil on fiberboard, 70 x 21 cm,



Pale, she has stepped forward to stage her massacre

Her large eyes crazed with ecstasy and terror;

And her voice, her dance, her lean, hypnotic body

Have served the dark Assyrian as dread intoxicants.

In the arms of her triumphant master, suddenly

She has cried out, closing her eyes as if she were a child.

Afterward the man, relaxed, descends into a bestial slumber:

Caught as much within a horror of love as of dark death,

Her conscience free, woman has lashed out at man:

Coldly and with slow determination she has sliced off his head.

—  Jean Lahor c. 1886

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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Cacciatore


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Judith, Morticia and Gomez

Judith could use some support.    Perhaps she should turn to her family.    The Addams Family.

Carolyn Jones as “Morticia Addams”(1964-1966)

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Whorey


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