Wednesday, June 29, 2016

15 Paintings, RELIGIOUS ART - Paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, of Judith and Holofernes. 21

Despite their ghastly subject, these strange paintings are singularly beautiful and dramatic: I wanted to draw your attention into their haunted depths.  The fact that an incredibly talented painter spent nearly a decade painting nothing but pretty young women holding severed heads is worth remarking on for its own right. More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530
Oil on linden
35 1/4 x 24 3/8 in. (89.5 x 61.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In this panel Judith presents the severed head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general directing the siege of her city, having killed him with his own sword. The virtuous heroine, who seduced the enemy with her coquettish appeal, is dressed in an elaborate contemporary costume that is characteristic of Cranach’s courtly mannerism. 

Cranach and his workshop produced several versions of this successful composition, which contrasts the gruesome head and the serene beauty of the biblical heroine. At the lower right, Cranach placed his insignia, a crowned winged serpent with a ring in its mouth. More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530
Oil on panel
77 × 56 cm

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes," c.1537
Oil on panel
91.4 x 63.5 cm,
Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Judith proudly presents the head of the enemy warlord Holofernes. It is a work of extremes. On the one hand is beautiful Judith, dressed to the fashion of Cranach's days. She is set against a background with a calm landscape. On the other hand are the horrible details of the act she just committed: the veins in the neck of the Assyrian and the blood on the sword.

Cranach made at least 13 paintings on this subject, all showing Judith and the head in a similar pose. This panel is in Glasgow, others are in New York (Met) and Vienna (KHM), amongst others. More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith Victorious, c. 1530
Beech panel
75 x 56 cm
Jagdschloss Grunewald, Berlin


Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530
Medium on lime
86 × 55.7 cm (33.9 × 21.9 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum

The painting was produced around 1525/30: it served as the template for a “Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist” painted around 1600 at the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. In this Point of View the two paintings are displayed together, emphasising the contentual ambivalence of these related compositions: Cranach presents Judith as a virtuous heroine from the Old Testament who vanquished Holofernes, the powerful enemy of her people and her faith. Salome, however, was responsible for the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Once Judith was displayed with Salome the valiant heroine who defended the true faith morphed into a wily widow. More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c.1530
Oil on wood
86 × 59 cm
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Portrait of a Lady of the Saxon Court as Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1537–1540
Oil On Wood Panel
31 7/16 x 21 7/8 (79.9 x 55.6 cm)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Cranach’s work pauses the narrative at a moment in time where Judith has slain Holofernes and now holds his head as a token on her triumph over him. True to the Old Testament story, she is shown as a seductive woman adorned in luxurious clothing and jewelry. Her eyes hint at the seduction she used to entrap Holofernes and her garments feature a level of detail that even the elite would envy. More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, circa 1550
Oil on oak
45.9 × 34.2 cm (18.1 × 13.5 in)
National Gallery of Ireland

Judith becomes a symbol of victory over the oppressive enemy at the time of Protestant Reformation and a figure for German nationalism. 

Cranach’s painting also uses the deep cuts in Judith’s neckline and mystic gaze to show her as a dangerous female seductress.   More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 153
Oil on poplar wood
72 x 56 cm
Suermondt Ludwig Museum

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1525
Oil on panel
83.5 x 54.6 cm
Syracuse University Art Collection, Syracuse, New York, USA

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c 1526-30
Oil and tempera on limewood
87 x 58 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel,Germany

A subtle inconsistency comes in the form of an anachronism: Judith is adorned in clothing contemporary to the German elite of Cranach’s 15th century time period. If we look out the window we can also see that the setting seems to be something that Cranach painted as a simple landscape and not at all reminiscent of Bethulia’s mountains and valleys as described in the Old Testament. 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith and Holofernes 
Oil on panel 
8¼ x 5¾ in. (21 x 14.6 cm.) 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 16 October 1553) was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm, becoming a close friend of Martin Luther. 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith and Holofernes
Oil on panel
83.5 x 93.5 cm

He also painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and many works exist in different versions; his son Lucas Cranach the Younger, and others, continued to create versions of his father's works for decades after his death. Lucas Cranach the Elder has been considered the most successful German artist of his time More

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith with the head of Holofernes and a servant, after 1537
Painting on lime
75.2 × 51 cm (29.6 × 20.1 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum

The account of the beheading of Holofernes by Judith is given in the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, and is the subject of many paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. In the story, Judith, a beautiful widow, is able to enter the tent of Holofernes because of his desire for her. Holofernes was an Assyrian general who was about to destroy Judith's home, the city of Bethulia. Overcome with drink, he passes out and is decapitated by Judith; his head is taken away in a basket (often depicted as carried by an elderly female servant).

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
Judith and Two Servants, 1525
Oil on wood
Diameter: 14.6 cm
Collection of Dr. Rau, Cologne, Germany

Artists have mainly chosen one of two possible scenes (with or without the servant): the decapitation, with Holofernes prone on the bed, or the heroine holding or carrying the head, often assisted by her maid The smaller background scene has Judith and her servant stick Holofernes' head in a sack, the headless body standing behind with his arm waving helplessly. The subject is one of the most commonly shown in the Power of Women topos.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
The death of Holofernes, c. 1531
Oil on lime
98 × 73.6 cm (38.6 × 29 in)
Castle Museum Schloss Friedenstein

In European art, Judith is very often accompanied by her maid at her shoulder, which helps to distinguish her from Salome, who also carries her victim's head on a silver charger (plate). However, a Northern tradition developed whereby Judith had both a maid and a charger, famously taken by Erwin Panofsky as an example of the knowledge needed in the study of iconography. For many artists and scholars, Judith's sexualized femininity interestingly and sometimes contradictorily combined with her masculine aggression. Judith was one of the virtuous women whom Van Beverwijck mentioned in his published apology (1639) for the superiority of women to men, and a common example of the Power of Women iconographic theme in the Northern Renaissance. More



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Acknowledgement: The Metropolitan Museum of Artjudith2you