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Judith and Salome (again)

Urgh.  So frustrating.  She just won’t go away.  That pesky Salome is back. Again.

Judith () Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), “Judith with the sword of Holofernes,” oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm, Stair Sainty Gallery, London, UK

 

Depending on which source you consult, this painting is sometimes identified as Judith and sometimes as Salome.  Marcel-Béronneau did specifically paint Salome numerous times – as did his teacher, Gustave Moreau, at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts.  In fact, Moreau did over seventy drawings of Salome, including SalomeSalome Dancing before Herod and Salome Brandishing the Head of John the Baptist.   And he was not the only one who was obsessed with the biblical story of Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils to obtain the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

It was notably the symbiosis of art and literature at the turn of the century that developed the image of Salome as a femme fatale. Salome was depicted numerous times by artists such as Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley. Oscar Wilde wrote his one-act play Salome, originally written in French, to shock audiences with its spectacle of perverse passions. Wilde’s play in turn became the source and inspiration for Richard Strauss’s one-act opera Salome, first produced in 1905. Joris-Karl Huysmans wrote about Moreau’s 1876 Salome in his seminal novel A Rebours (Against the Grain) making Salome the object of his hero’s fantasies of feminine evil. At the same time, Gustave Flaubert wrote his novel Herodias, and Stephane Mallarme was working on a poem entitled Herodiade. (1)

Sex sells.

Salome with the head of john the baptist ()

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Salome with the head of John the Baptist

Salome (  )

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Salome

 

 

Salome (1934)

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Salome, 1934

Salome the bird of prey ()

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Salome the bird of prey

Salome ()

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Salome, 1905

 

But Marcel-Béronneau gets credit for depicting more than just sex.   His work explored similar themes to that of Moreau (temptation, seduction, sensual pleasure, triumph, pain and death), but his treatment with thick impasto and broad brushstrokes was significantly different.  The style gives the appearance of mosaic or cracked ceramic, of texture and layers.

Although he followed Moreau with ornate scenes and “hypnotic” mythology and history along with the femme fatale, Béronneau’s later subjects more often appear strong and fierce – almost war-like.

 … Béronneau was equally fascinated by mythical landscape; his work presented the classical fables, mythologies and biblical stories in dream-like, utterly otherworldly contexts loaded with bright, seductive colour and layers of glazes, applied thinly to luminous effect.

The feminine, seen in such characters such as Salome, Herodias, Judith or St. Cecilia, is omnipresent in the work of Marcel Béronneau, but that feminine is often synonymous with threat or temptation. Though never evil creatures, Beronneau’s women often appear almost inhuman, and always fascinating. He makes the traditional attributes of these women pictorially literal – Leda becomes a ‘swan–woman’, Gorgon Medusa a ‘snake woman’ and the Sphinx half-female, half-leopard. (3)

This Judith (if she is Judith) exudes confidence in her direct gaze that confronts the viewer “with the same attitude history describes her: unquestionably empowered.” (3)  She is attired for battle with a headdress that looks like armor and a sword in her hands.   The hilt of the sword is a nude male figure, suggesting that Judith’s conflict was both in and out of Holofernes’ bed.

Another noticeable element of Marcel-Béronneau’s work:  the repeated use of the ethereal model, Germaine Marchant.  After falling deeply in love with her, Marcel-Béronneau painted her obsessively as his representation of the femme fatale and then married her in 1918.  In his depiction of Marchant, she appeared to have a face like Angelina Jolie – with a straight and symmetrical nose, wide lips in full pout, and heavily lidded eyes the color of pale green glass under arched brows.

But of course!  Who else should portray Judith?

Le Datura

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Le Datura

Gorgon

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau (1869–1937), Gorgon

angelina-jolie

 

(1) Catalogue Note: Pierre-Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, Salome, 19th Century Paintings Including Spanish Painting And Symbolism & The Poetic Vision.  Sotheby’s, London, 4 November 2007 (Lot #263)

(2) Catalogue Note: Pierre-Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, Salome. Stair Sainty, London,

(3) Catalogue Note: Pierre-Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, Le Songe D’Orphee (Recto), Stair Sainty, London,

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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Whorey

 

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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’s April Foolishness

Well …

Is she or isn’t she??

(c) Reading Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

unknown, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes (Salome with the Head of John the Baptist),” mid 18th century, Oil on canvas, 160 x 150 cm, Reading Museum, Berkshire, UK

Once again I am confronted with (A) Judith who used her wiles for Good or (B) Salome who used her wiles for Bad.  I suppose it depends on your point of view or who you considered to be the victim, but I despise this constant confusion.

According to the official description:

In this painting the sumptuous fabrics and bare breast allude to an erotic context; however, Judith’s dignified gaze and resolute gestures convey the full significance of the narrative. As her left hand points to the severed head of Holofernes and the golden hilt of his sword, in her right she holds up a laurel branch to symbolise victory. (1)

A laurel branch?  That’s the only clue?  I actually thought it was a sprig of rosemary left over from the feast.  As for dignified gaze and resolute gesture, that seems to be up to interpretation as well – since it could as likely be insolence.  Or boredom.  Or indigestion.

(1) The National Inventory of Continental European Paintings (NICE Paintings): Judith with the Head of Holofernes.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Whorey

 

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Judith takes it lying down

Santiago Rodrigues Bonome, “Judith,” 1930, Bronze, patinated, 23 inches, auctioned by Heritage, Nov 1, 2007 (Lot 33755), Dallas, Texas, US

Men are so fickle.  First they want the nice Green Patina on a heroic “Judith” – sold for $1500.  And then they want a Brown Patina on the seductress “Salome” – going for $3000 to $4000.  Can’t they tell it’s the same woman?!

Santiago Rodrigues Bonome, “Salome,” 1930, Bronze, brown patinated, 23 inches, auctioned by Christie’s Mar 10, 2009 (Lot 41), Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Whorey

 

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Judith in a stew

Andrea Fabrizi Parmigiano, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 16th century, Oil on panel, 34 x 23 cm, Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy

The first time I saw this painting, I tossed it n the pot labeled “Less than Masterful Artwork.”   The poses are awkward, the space is cramped, the colors are dull – and Judith is giving the Stink Eye.  In fact, her insolent expression (along with the platter/bowl) is closer to my conception of Salome.

The second time I saw this painting … I thought the same thing.

Although I do like the frame.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Distracted

 

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Judith loses her jacket and her name tag

This is exactly what I was worried about.    All the signs indicate this is virtuous (although naked) Judith and not her evil twin, Salome.    And yet, the painting is titled Salome.

Jakub Obrovsky, “Salome,” Oil on canvas, 1913, 102 x 115 cm, auctioned by Dorotheum Prague 5/23/2009 (Lot 23)

The elements that point to Judith:  the sword in her hand, the head in a bag, and the maid.    Remember that Salome did not decapitate the victim herself and she gave the head to Herod Antipater on a platter.

Pffft.  And that head doesn’t even look like John the Baptist.

So I wonder:  did Obrovsky himself title the painting – in which case he confused the iconography?   or did someone else title the painting posthumously – in which case someone else confused the iconography?

It matters because for some ridiculous reason, I want to claim this as Judith.   I love her facial expression – surprised and fragile and appealing.   I love her nakedness – especially the realistic posterior.   I want to think that, among the many glorious nudes he selected to paint, that Obrovsky considered Judith to be worthy of his attention.

Ultimately, for a narcissistic blog, attention is what it is all about.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Whorey

 

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Judith blows smoke

Fedor Zubkov, “Judith and Holofernes,” 2011, Oil on canvas, 47 x 58 cm, http://www.artnow.ru

This is one of THOSE Judith‘s.   The one that could be Salome.   But the artist titled it Judith and Holofernes, so I will accept that this is our heroine.  With the correct severed head.

Actually, I love this painting.  The rich colors, the flashing brush strokes, the languid atmosphere.  In this scenario, the work is done and Judith is savoring her success.  Laying down the sword in the forefront next to the head and taking a moment to collect her thoughts.   A smile lingers on her lips as she toys with her luxurious hair.  Taking in the aroma of the incense burner.

Assuming that is merely incense.  Or maybe not – and that is why she is so mellow.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Whorey

 

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