Tag Archives: Symbolism

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


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



(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 and the Occult, Part 2

In truth, the time spent on the Thoth tarot deck was partly in preparation for the artwork of the day.  No, no more tarot cards – but another foray into symbolic art.

This is the meticulous work of Nebojsa Bezanic, a Serbian artist who creates worlds-within-worlds of fantastical interactions.

Judith (2011) Nebojsa Bezanic

Nebojsa Bezanic (1964 – ), “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cm,

Judith (2011) Nebojsa Bezanic - center

Nebojsa Bezanic (1964 – ), “Judith Beheading Holofernes” – center detail, 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cm,

Judith (2011) Nebojsa Bezanic - lower left

Nebojsa Bezanic (1964 – ), “Judith Beheading Holofernes” – lower left detail, 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cm,

Judith (2011) Nebojsa Bezanic - upper left

Nebojsa Bezanic (1964 – ), “Judith Beheading Holofernes” – upper left detail, 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cm,


Being overwhelmed as I am by Hieronymus Bosch,  I have the luxury of defaulting to Edric van Vredenburgh’s website and the critique by Dejan Djoric.

Within Nebojsa Bezanic’s art of painting, every­thing starts and ends with a drawing. As one of the best European drawers, he has expanded human anthill with his drawing, and spread it over his own map of the world, which has neither beginning nor end. He includes countless figures in his map of the parallel world, small and big soldiers waging war for him. The painter is like the demiurge, God of one of numerous universes where human is given the significance different from the real one. The artist is no traditional mimos, but the creator of the world, which oper­ates according to its own rules, in agreement with space and fictitious time, which is lived faster and more exciting.

So I am content with knowing I cannot possibly see all or begin to understand all that is taking place amidst the delirium of the Assyrrian camp.

But there is one thing that caught my eye in the uppermost left corner:  a building with the words “Hermes Trismegistus” above the entrance. And OF COURSE I had to look it up.  And OF COURSE wikipedia (the font of all millennial knowledge) led me to an entry on Hermeticism, which OF COURSE concerns writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice Great”) – so named because he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe (alchemy, astrology, and theurgy) – which OF COURSE means he represents the combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.


Which means we have gone in a circle and now my brain is full.  And I will have to tackle the Meaning of the Universe some other day.


Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Cacciatore


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Judith: Fashion Forward

Alfred Kubin, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1904, Pen and ink over pencil, auctioned by Hauswedell & Nolte, December 5, 2008 (Lot 118)

Alfred Leopold Isidor Kubin.  Wonder what a psychologist would make of him?

  • In 1896, attempted suicide on his mother’s grave at the age of 19
  • The next year, had a nervous breakdown in the Austrian army
  • Began studying art at a private academy in 1898
  • Enrolled at the Munich Academy in 1899
  • Dropped out of school
  • Emulated Max Klinger and Goya in ink and wash drawings of fantastical, often macabre subjects (like Judith in her Fashion Forward pose)
  • Lived a withdrawn life in a small 12th century castle in Upper Austria from 1906 until his death in 1959
  • Wrote and illustrated eight dark, spectral, symbolic fantasy novels during that time
  • Created thousands of pen-and-ink drawings, many portfolios (including “Dance of the Dead” in 1925) and illustrations for more than 70 books by other authors

They would probably be disappointed that they could not be reimbursed for 63 years of therapy.

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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Gory


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Judith robed in Radiant Red

Roland Petermann, “Judith – Leaving the tent of Holofernes,”

Once again, Judith attired in red.   Or half attired in red.   Or half attired.

This time, offset by a white stole and standing before a green drape.   All the colors working to frame her face with the look of suspicion or distrust or disdain.   The furrowed brow, the protruding lip, the slight lift of the head suggest she is looking down her nose at the viewer – wary or leery of giving her trust.   Even the way she holds the sword between herself and the viewer suggests a defensive stance, just in case her wariness is well-founded.

As Petermann describes his work:

“I paint mysterious allegorical female figures. Pop-Art, Impressionism, American Realism… The soulmates of my art are many, but the essence of my paintings is a modern Symbolism. I reinterpret icons, symbols and concepts that range from the Bible to Pulp Fiction and from Circe to Catwoman. They express my very own interpretation of what moves the human mind and soul.“ (1)

What moves the human mind and soul to murderous acts must be robed in red.

(1) Kunsterniert

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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Whorey


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Judith emanates energoform

Lika Volchek, “Judith,” 2002, Oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm,

Are you ready for this?

Everything that exists has “energoforms” and is connected with the cosmos. Various phenomena, events, sounds and prayers, thoughts and conversations – everything has its energoform and its wave structure … Concentrating on a symbol on the gene level resounds with the energoform of the humankind’s most ancient memory.  That is why reproducing of symbols in religions and arts goes on so insistently in all the history of the civilization … Energoform is the fine energy of a creature or a phenomenon which is most close in its sound to the Universe and the Creator. (1)

So let me get this straight:  everything has energy in a wave form that connects to the Cosmos.  Like waves upon the shore, they emanate and intersect – creating cross-currents and undertows.   And when two highly polished surfaces – such as vinyl sheet images and shiny plastic laminated board – come in contact, they adhere.

Oh wait … that’s Colorforms.

(1) Press Release for Lika Volchek’s Project “Energoforms of Earth and Heaven,”  The Museum of Nonconformist Art, September 9 – October 8, 2006

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Whorey


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Judith has a whole lotta going on

Vladimir Umansky, “Judith,” 1995, Oil on canvas, 80 x 71 in,

Wow.  There is a lot going on here.  Sort of Psychodelic-Tribal-Erotica.   The lion-skin rug, the Big Ass Sword, the bicep and ankle bands, the waist chain.  And don’t forget the shaved head.    Wth a very provocative posture.   All on a backdrop of bold, melting colors and vivid tiles.

Is Holofernes’ head in there somewhere?

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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Whorey


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Judith unbalanced

Anastasia Nelyubina, “Judith”

This Judith appears to be a stranger to symmetry.   One black boot on a bare leg,  one barefoot red stocking.   One perky boob in, one droopy boob out.

At least she seems to have made a clean cut of Holofernes’  head.

Too bad she did not do the same for her hair.

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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Gory


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