Taylor Swift + La Belle Liseuse by Léon François Comerre Fearless + Good companions by Vittorio Reggianini Speak Now + The helping hand by Emile Auguste Pinchart Red + Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach the Elder 1989 + Portrait of Edith (the artist’s wife) by Egon Schiele
1. Saturn Devouring his Son, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 143 x 81 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
2.The Dog, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 131.5 x 79.3 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
3. Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 49.3 x 83.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
4. Judith and Holofernes, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 143.5 x 81.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
5. Two Old Men, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 146 x 66 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
6. The Fates, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 123 x 266 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
7. Fight with Cudgels, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 123 x 266 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
8. Witches’ Sabbath, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 140 x 438 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
9. Fantastic Vision, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 125.4 x 65.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
10. Man Mocked by Two Women, 1819-23, oil mural transferred to canvas, 125.4 x 65.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Source
Here is a selection of works from Goya’s famous ‘Black Paintings’ series, which consists of fourteen murals that were painted directly onto the walls of the Quinta del Sordo house in Madrid, where the artist lived between 1819 and 1823. They have since been removed, transferred to canvases, and become part of the Museo del Prado’s collection.
The series is pretty dark, to say the least. It is rife with themes of witchcraft, insanity, violence and death’s inevitability. My personal favourite is Saturn Devouring his Son, which is based on the story of Saturn’s Greek counterpart, Cronus, and how he ate his sons after hearing that they would eventually overthrow him. However, Saturn/Cronus was tricked by Rhea into swallowing a stone instead of one of his children. This son, of whom Rhea was the mother, was Zeus, and he would eventually have Cronus and the other titans imprisoned. Goya’s depiction is deliciously gory and terrifying. Saturn’s face is enough to give you nightmares!
1. Gustav Klimt, Judith and the Head of Holofernes (Judith I), 1901, oil on canvas, 84 x 42 cm, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Source
2. Gustav Klimt, Judith II (Salome), 1909, oil on canvas, 178 x 46 cm, Musei Civici Veneziani, Venice. Source
In both his depictions of this particular subject, Klimt chose to show Judith holding the head of Holofernes, rather than presenting the decapitation itself. Furthermore, the compositional focus in both cases is the glamourous figure of Judith; the head of the Assyrian general is in fact cut off by the painting’s border and a dark sack in the earlier and later versions respectively.
For International Women’s Day, I want to tell you a little story that I just wrote my art history paper on.
This is Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. It depicts the violence of two women decapitating Holofernes’ head (one of the general’s of the King Nebuchadnezzar’s army). Gentileschi is known for painting scenes during the 17th century Baroque movement that illustrated violence towards men. This is because whenever she was 18, she claimed to have been raped by one of her father’s colleagues at the university she studied art at. When she spoke out against him, the man went through trial but was never punished for his actions. Judith Slaying Holofernes is a story portrayed in the bible. At the time, the Assyrian army was about to destroy the town of Bethulia. Judith had snuck into his tent late at night with her maidservant, seduced him, got him drunk, and decapitated his head when he passed out. The next day, she had hung his head on the gates to the city showing that the entire Assyrian army couldn’t go further because of their dead general. Because of this action, Judith was seen as the city’s heroine. Gentileschi’s characteristics in this painting are shown to be very forceful and violent. She is telling this story out of anger through her experiences with men. To the audience, it shows that women (even religious ones) can be a lot more than what men can expect from them, and nothing is stopping them to get justice. And if you don’t think that is not just the most badass thing you’ve heard all day then I don’t know what is.
This is another one of my favorite paintings, mostly because of the story behind it.
So the title of the painting is Judith Beheading Holofernes, and like most Renaissance paintings, it comes from the bible. The short version of the story is that the hometown of this woman, Judith, was about to be invaded by an army led by a guy named Holofernes. No one else had any plans about how to fix this problem, so Judith was like, well fine, I’ll just deal with this myself, so she went over to the enemy camp and got Holofernes super drunk. The biblical version is that he passed out before they could actually do the nasty (because biblical heroines can’t have/enjoy sex, no sir), but personally I think Judith rocked Holofernes’s world and then he fell asleep. Anyway, once he was out Judith grabbed his sword and cut off his fucking head (how’s that for phallic imagery?) and then put the head in a basket and she and her maid carried it back home to show everyone. Holofernes’s army was so freaked out by this that they decided not to invade, so the city was saved.
The death of Holofernes was a really popular subject for Renaissance painters, and Artemisia Gentileschi was no exception. Her version of the scene is really interesting, though, because of the story behind it. See, Artemisia got a pretty bad deal in life, on account of being like the only notable female painter of her age, so things weren’t great for her to begin with, and to make things worse, she got involved with her father’s apprentice, Agostino Tassi, and they had sex. He very likely raped her, and there was a whole trial about it (because Artemesia was a virgin before that, and as far as Renaissance Italy was concerned anything goes except deflowering virgins without marrying them first, because patriarchy) and it was generally a bad time for everyone.
So after the whole rape trial fiasco (during which Artemesia was tortured to extract a confession) she came out with this painting, her version of the Judith story. Guess who she chose to model Holofernes after?
Yep. Tassi is right there, upside-down and getting his head sawed off by a woman who looks a hell of a lot like Artemisia. There’s still debate about whether or not their relationship was actually consensual, or if it just exploded into a rape case because Tassi wouldn’t marry her, but I think all the answers we need are right there in that painting.
Look at Judith’s face. She is going to fucking kill that guy no matter what, and no matter how much he fights her, his ass is going down. For me, there’s nothing else to add to the discussion.
Anyway, Artemisia Gentileschi: yet another female artist who got a super raw deal as far as history is concerned. Respect, etc. (I may or may not have had a few glasses of wine before writing this. FEMINISM.)