Friday, January 1, 2021

Counting Down the Days

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612-13, oil on canvas, 78 x 64 inches
Museo Capodimonte, Napoli 

Felice Capodanno. That's Italian for Happy New Year, literally Happy Head of the Year. After today there will be 19 days until the Orange Beast leaves or is removed from office. What better way is there to express the ending of a bad year and a bad presidency than by showing images of Judith beheading Holofernes. Of course I hope we have a peaceful and bloodless transition on both counts. However, until President Biden and Vice President Harris take charge, I'm satisfying myself vicariously with the story of Judith and Holofernes. As you know from art history, or perhaps the Bible, Judith is the Old Testament heroine who stopped King Nebuchadnezzar's general from attacking Palestine. Slipping into Holofernes's tent, she seduced him with her beauty, plied him with drink, and thenwhen he was in a drunken stupor—cut off his head with his own sword. She returned to her people with his head in a bag. Without their leader, the Assyrian forces were defeated by the Jews. 

Master of Jean de Mandeville, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1360-70; tempera, gold and ink on parchment, 13.75 x 10.25 inches; J. Paul Getty Museum

Detail below

Sandro Botticelli, Judith Leaving the Tent with  Holofernes' Head, ca 1497-1500; oil, tempera, and gilding on panel, app. 14.3 x 7.8 inches; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Giorgione, Judith, 1504, oil on panel, 57 x 26 inches; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1530, oil on linen; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Peter Paul Rubens, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1609-10, pen and brown ink,  app. 9 x 6.25 inches; Stadel Museum, Frankfurt

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598-1602, oil on canvas 55 x 77 inches; Palazzo Barberini, Rome

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1620, oil on canvas, app 57.5 x 42.5 inches; Uffizi, Florence

Johan Liss, Judith in the Tent of Holofernes, ca. 1652, oil on canvas, app. 50.75 x 39 inches; National Gallery, London

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1621-24, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

Cristofano Allori, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1631, oil on canvas,  app. 47 x 39 inches; Royal Collection, London

Elisabetta Sirani, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca 1650, oil on canvas, 92.9 x 72 inches; Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois

Maker unknown, England, Judith and Holofernes, mid1600s; needle lace of linen, silk, and human hair; Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Australia

Goya, Judit y Holofernes, 1819-1823, oil on canvas, app. 57 x 33 inches; the Prado, Madrid

Gustav Klimt, Judith and the Head of Holofernes, 1901, oil on canvas, 33 x 17 inches; Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna

My favorites are Artemisia Gentileschi's strong-armed women (she painted two versions) who make a bloody mess but get nary a drop on their voluminous silk garments, and one that was new to me: Johan Liss's broad-backed beauty who, having done the deed, looks back at us while stuffing the head into a sack. May we stuff this annus horribilis into a metaphorical sack the same way. And may there be no looking back.

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