Tag Archives: Vienna

Judith out and about: Vienna day 2

Just when you think there could not be more Judith, there are.

Two destinations today with two different outcomes.  The first is the Leopold Museum, across from the Kunsthistorisches Museum – but representing an entirely unique period in the development of artistic expression.  The core of the collection is Austrian art of the early 20th century, featuring the transformation from Wiener Secession, Art Nouveau/Jugendstil movement to Expressionism. Although I came primarily to view Kolomon Moser’s Judith and Holofernes,  I lingered to learn about the intricate lives of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and the women that influenced their lives.  This is an exhibit space that flows easily and provides insight into the lifestyles that spawned the movement away from traditional art to alternate forms of expression that underpin Modern Art today.

But back to Kolomom Moser.  Even within the context of the Leopold, this painting of Judith is still a departure for the artist.  Although it takes on more form in person, I can only surmise Moser was playing with red pigments when he conceived it.  Having recently heard a lecture on Wassily Kandinsky and his fascination with color symbolism and psychology, I wonder if there was some influence from afar.

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Koloman Moser (1868–1918),” Judith und Holofernes,” 1916, Oil on canvas, 49.5 x 37.9 cm, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria

Maybe it’s all the angst of the time period that drove me to take a detour.  Or maybe it’s all the years I spent studying Psychology (and years and years).  Or maybe I’m just an egghead who loves history – but probably it’s all three that lead me to this address.

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Actually, the small museum in Freud’s apartment/office is fascinating but the wine shop around the corner was equally invigorating.

The truth is there is much more to see in Vienna and not enough time on this trip.  In fact, there was really not enough time for my last destination so I saw a small portion of the immense complex known as The Belvedere.  But, OH the things I saw in that small portion!!


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View from the Upper Belvedere, Vienna, Austria


First, the one thing I can show you – because the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere has an inconsistent policy regarding photography.  Without any idea what I was walking into, one room of the museum is devoted to Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783) – a German-Austrian sculptor who seems to have something in common with Arcimboldo.  That “something” being a penchant for creating portraits that deviate substantially from traditional depictions.  Perhaps due to an underlying mental illness in later life or to visitations by the spirit Hermes Trismegistus, Messerschmidt began to devote his work to “character heads” that represent the 64 canonical grimaces of the human face. The museum owns sixteen of these sculptures, displayed on 4-foot plinths that bring them to eye-level. Arrayed in a circle, they really are a most unusual and unsettling sight – and a curiosity of art.

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But about that inconsistent policy regarding photography: use of a camera is allowed through-out the galleries UNTIL you reach the Klimt collection.  I am usually very attuned to restrictions on photography and respectful of the policy. HOWEVER, I am taking the time to rant here because (a) it was not clear that photos were not allowed in the Klimt galleries, (b) while the guard was yelling at me for trying to take one discrete photo of Klimt’s Judith AT LEAST THREE PEOPLE NEXT TO ME TOOK PICTURES!! and (c) the guard then FOLLOWED ME through the remaining rooms while people continued to take photos all around. I began to wonder if he was actually an escapee from the Messerschmidt exhibit (where pictures are are allowed BTW)!!

Putting the rant aside, the Klimt collection is perfectly enchanting.  The twenty-four works form the largest collection of oil paintings by Klimt in the world, ranging from portraits and landscapes to allegorical scenes.  By far, the most famous are The Kiss (1908/1909) and Judith (1901) – exhibited in a darkened room to allow the gold pigments to radiate. And while The Kiss is truly spectacular, of course I was enrapt by my namesake.

Gustav Klimt, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 1901, oil on canvas, 84 × 42 cm, Austrian Gallery, Vienna, Austria

Gustav Klimt, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1901, Oil on canvas, 84 × 42 cm, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria


Revisiting Judith goes Full-on Femme Fatale, I still feel the same after seeing her in person: “She beautiful but kind of scary.   Powerful but kind of sinister. Glittering but kind of tarnished. Who I want to be but kind of not.”  She does what art is meant to do: to reveal insights that are normally obscured by direct observation and to enrich experience – even if somewhat disturbing.

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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Exploring



Judith out and about: Vienna day 1

At this point in writing about the trip to visit Judith, I have surprised even myself with the immensity of the task. And as I prepare to write about the day in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, I am once again overwhelmed and delighted at the opportunity to see these artworks in person.  I mean, who wouldn’t be excited when this duo greets you at the front steps?

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Musicians in front of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


Although those two were hard to miss,  it would be easy to miss Gustav Klimt’s pictorial cycle of the periods of art that decorates the arches above the entrance staircase if you are not prepared to look upward.  Of course, Vienna is the epicenter of everything Klimt – and if you are entranced by his work, the museum even provides a telescope in order to provide a close-up view of the soaring murals. If you follow in my footsteps, Do Not Miss these thirteen semi-hidden treasures!

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Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Pendentive paintings of the periods of art, 1890, Entrance staircase, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


Also before I launched into rapture over the many paintings of Judith in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, I would like to take a moment to comment on the doorways to the salons – specifically to the busts above the doorways.  I don’t know who they are, but in every salon they look down on the patrons from a protective perch.  Rather than being creepy or intimidating, I felt rather welcomed and encouraged by their presence.  So here is to the door monitors, whoever you are.

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Using the audioguide provided by the museum, I began with the Italian Renaissance painters who proceeded in somewhat chronological order. It was somewhat an orgy of artwork and Judith was a prominent participant …

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Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), “Judith with the head of Holofernes, c.1580, Oil on canvas, 111 x 100.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Salon IV, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Liss Johann (1597 c. -1631) Judith with the head of Holofernes,” 1622, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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after Cristofano Allori (1577–1621), “Judith with the head of Holofernes (1),” 1613, Oil on canvas, 120.4 x 100.3 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), “Judith Presenting the Head of Holofernes,” 1610-1615, oil on canvas, 90 x 79 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Simon Vouet (1590-1649), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1615-1620, Oil on canvas, 115 x 86 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651), “Judith presents Holofernes’ head to the people,” 1593, Oil on oakwood, 34.5 x 44.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


With all this astounding artwork to admire, when I finally turned the corner to the Northern Renaissance I can hardly complain about one piece that is missing.  Hardly …

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… except it’s a Judith by Lucas Cranach the Elder.  The only artist who was more obsessed with Judith than I am. So a few tears were shed, a couple of curse words escaped and there may had been foot stomping and a pout.

So in place of Judith, I contemplated three Saxony princesses who look a lot like Judith.  Because in the end, most of Cranach’s portraits of Judith resemble each other.  A lot.  In fact, I think she might have borrowed clothing that belong to these princesses …

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), “Sybilla, Emilia, and Sidonia von Sachsen, Princesses of Saxony,” c.1535, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


However, my disappointment was short lived when I realized a side gallery held one of my favorite artists who did not paint Judith – Arcimboldo!!  Although he did create a stained glass window for her, Arcimboldo never immortalized Judith in produce – even though she would have been a ripe subject.

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Winter,” 1563, oil on linden wood, 66.6 x 50.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Water,” 1566, oil on linden wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Summer,” 1553, oil on linden wood, 67 x 51 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria


Yes, it was a frenzy of fine art but well worth it.  I outlasted the musicians and I’m ready for another day!

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Still standing, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria



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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Exploring



Judith as film noir

This painting reminds me of something from a film noir of the 1940’s or 1950’s.   A stylish and melodramatic Hollywood crime drama, that emphasizes cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.  Yup, that sounds like Judith.

Carlo Saraceni, “Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” c.1615-1620, Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 42.5 in, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Dramatic contrast in lighting is used by Saraceni to create tension in this night time scene.   In the center  is Judith, pictured in half-length.  Looking directly at the viewer, her expression is sober – maybe even cautious.   Her left hand clutches the head by the hair, raising and turning it toward the viewer.   On the left is the maid in profile – old and wrinkled this time.   She looks up at Judith expectantly, holding a sack with both hands and her mouth.   Saraceni did not do her any favors:  in fact, she resembes a canine companion with the bag in her teeth.   Of course, Holofernes does not fare well at all.   Only his forehead, nose and right eye are visible in the gloom but his expression is unmistakable:  definitely contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives as befits the cynical film noir.

Obviously, Saraceni was influenced by Caravaggio – to the extent that he was considered among the first of the “tenebrists” or “Caravaggisti.”   In fact, when Caravaggio’s infamous Death of the Virgin (1606) was rejected by the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Rome, Saraceni was recruited to produce a more conventional substitute (1).   Must have worked out because Saraceni’s Death of the Virgin is still in the chapel.

But then, Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin ended up in the Louvre, so it did not turn out so bad for the painting.


NOTE November 1, 2017: Oh a surprise! On the day I finally decided to drive measly 38 miles to the Dayton Art Institute, I found out the original of this painting is actually in Vienna … and I already saw it 2 years ago in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.  According to Wikipedia, “Another autograph copy is known in the Dayton Art Institute.”  A little internet sleuthing revealed there are, in fact, at least two renditions by Saraceni  – the version pictured above and the original located in Vienna (and two more that are attributed to Saraceni). Therefore, in order to be thorough, here is the original with the appropriate caption.

Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), “Judith Presenting the Head of Holofernes,” 1610-1615, oil on canvas, 90 x 79 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

There are slight differences in the two images.  The Vienna Judith has sharper features and is wearing a blue and gold gown that laces across the bodice: the Dayton Judith has rounder facial features and is wearing a green gown with a red ribbon and a gold medallion on the breast. And overall, the Vienna Judith is depicted in more precise detail – the folds of her sleeve, the stitching of her bodice, the headdress of the maid, the expression of Holofernes’ detached head – which is why it is located in one of the pre-eminent art museums of Western Europe.

But tomorrow, I will see for myself.

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And to be REALLY thorough, here are the other Judith’s  attributed to Saraceni –

I call this “Shifty Judith” attributed to Saraceni, apparently part of the exhibition “Alberto Longhi – from Giotto to Caravaggio” (Mar 27, 2015) at the Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris

This painting attributed to Saraceni has been auctioned several times, found on both and















(1) Eileen Carr, The Dayton Art Institute:  Art in Context, Judith With the Head of Holofernes.

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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Gory


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