Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oriental Grief

Jephthah's Daughter (1876) by the French painter Édouard Debat-Ponsan (1847-1913).

With all the lascivious exotic women this is more an oriental than a biblical painting. Debat-Ponsan did also some oriental harem-paintings and stayed here near this popular subject.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

King David’s Letter

Bathsheba receiving King David’s letter (c. 1659) by the Dutch painter Jan Steen (c.1626–1679). Steen shows here a typical Dutch bourgeois woman who shows triumphing king David’s letter, meaning that she will have success with her plan.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ghoulish Salome

Here a contemporary interpretation (2007) of the old myth of Salome and St. John the Baptist by the Polish artist Joanna Chrobak (born 1968). Salome looks like a pale ghoulish ghost contemplating sadly her trophy. A great painting in the best Polish surrealist tradition.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finding Moses

The Finding of Moses (c.1650) by the French Baroque painter Sébastien Bourdon (1616-1671). Bourdon studied in Paris and Rome where he was influenced by the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain and Caravaggio. Here the influence of Poussin could easily be observed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fauny Lot

Lot and his daughters (1537) by the German Renaissance Painter Albrecht Altdorfer (c.1480–1538). Here Lot looks more like a horny faun who is seducing a nymph. It’s only the burning Sodom in the back which gives the painting it’s biblical environment.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Potiphar’s Wife

Sold as a slave by his brothers Joseph became an overseer in the household of the rich Egypt officer Potiphar. But there he was pursued by the woman of his master who seemed to be bored with her life in luxury. When Joseph resisted several of her attempts to seduce him she became furious and accused him of attempting to rape her. Potiphar casts Joseph into prison where he stayed until he had to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh.

This saucy little story was rather successful as an art subject. There was the chaste young man (presumably the artist himself) resisting heroically seduction and menace, always true to his real master (presumably the artist’s male sponsor).

This "Joseph and Potiphar's Wife" (1660s) is by the Spanisch painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682). It’s very typical for the whole subject. There is the valiant resisting young Joseph and the horny half naked housewife.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brave Judith

This Judith and Holofernes (c.1554) is by the Italian Renaissance painter Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574).
Interesting is the two dimensional reduction certainly inspired by roman fresco paintings.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Modern Jezebel

Jezebel is probably the most villainous women in the Bible, she worshipped false gods, manipulated the people of Israel and was above all famous for her promiscuity.

So it may be a little surprising to find a modern lifestyle magazine using the ancient myth of the seductive and evil Jezebel as a kind of brand. But I like especially Paris Hilton on the cover as a modern cheap edition of old Jezabel.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Susanna Surprised

Susanna surprised by the Elders (ca.1913) by the German painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928). That painted several variations of that subject. It seems that he liked the scene of the surprised young women and the two horny old men.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ruth’s Loyalty

This is a more recent Bible illustration from 1965. It’s by the American artist Francis Marshall (1901-1980) who worked also for Vogue and did a lot of book and magazine illustrations.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tamar seducing Judah

The Meeting of Tamar and Judah (1555-58) by the Italian Renaissance painter Tintoretto (1518–1594).

It’s the story how Tamar seduces her father-in-law disguised as a prostitute. But because Tamar isn’t disguised at all it seems that the story is more an excuse for the artist to show the elegant noble clothes and the dramatic landscape in the back.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rococo Bathsheba

Bathsheba by the Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734).

Ricci depicted here a lazy rococo court lady with her maidservants taking care of her beautiful body. Bathsheba is probably aware of King David on his balcony. She’s a kind of Madame de Pompadour who wants to become queen in seducing the king.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Delilah - Film

The American actress Hedy Lamarr as Delilah in the film Samson and Delilah (1949). It’s interesting to see this more recent interpretation of the old myth, especially the typical Hollywood makeup and hairstyle of the early 1950s.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Old Sarah and young Hagar

The Dutch painter Adriaen van der Werff (1669-1722) depicts here how Sarah presents her young slave Hagar to her husband so that he can have children with her. Werff confronts here the old face of Sarah with the young naked and fertile looking body of Hagar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Modern Application

This painting "The Servant" (1994) is by the American fantasy artist Gerald Brom (born 1965). And though it probably not pretends to be an interpretation of the old story of Salome and St. John the Baptist, it is unavoidable to see that myth in it. The iconography is in this case so strong, that a head on a plate will always be seen as that of St. John.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Drunken Lot

Lot and his Daughters (c. 1651) by the Italian Baroque painter Gian Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666).

It’s the typical setting: Lot between his seductive daughters drinking the offered wine (probably to daze his conscience) and in the back the burning Sodom with the statue of the mother half on the way.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Neoclassic Scenery

Pharaoh's daughter finding baby Moses (1855) by the Russian painter Konstantin Dmitriyevich Flavitsky (1830-1866).

Flavitsky was a neoclassic painter and specialized in biblical and Russian legends. What attracts the attention in this painting is above all it’s rationalistic construction: the light, the diagonal lines, the arrangement of the persons.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Young Judith

Judith and the Head of Holofernes (1608) by the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Baglione (1571-1643).

It’s a very dramatic scenery. A very young and beautiful Judith with that gigantic severed head of Holofernes. In the back her frightened maid.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Neo Medieval Susanna

Susanna and the Elders (1920) by the German symbolist painter Theodor Baierl (1881-1932). Baierl who studied under Franz von Stuck was great admirer of late medieval art, above all that of the Quattrocento. So he didn’t present his Susanna in a historical and oriental look which was so fashionable in the 19th century. The costumes in his painting are medieval and a kind of fairy tale like.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jezebel’s Cruel Death

The Death of Jezebel (1868) by the French painter Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant (1845-1902).

It’s a very traditional view of Jezebel’s death. She had already received what she deserved and the triumphant Jehu watches how the dogs are devouring her body.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Romantic Bathsheba

Bathsheba at her bath (1834) by the Italian painter Francesco Hayez (1791-1882). The smooth light and gestures, the exotic costumes and the fairy tale trees all in all a typical romantic painting.
Funny King David wearing his crown in the background.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hollywood Esther

This movie poster for "Esther and the King" (1960) starring Joan Collins as Esther underlines the modern artistic interest and exploitation of the bible women.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Art Nouveau Salome

Salome (1925) by the British artist Charles De Sousy Ricketts (1866-1931). Ricketts worked mostly as a book illustrator and was a celebrated stage designer. Here he shows Salome in the best Art Nouveau manner. The painting is much more a symbolic arrangement than a historical painting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Indian Princess

The Finding of Moses (1884) by the Brazilian painter Pedro Américo de Figueiredo e Melo (1843-1905). Like most Latin American artists Américo studied in Europe and became a typical academic painter. Nevertheless his Pharaoh's daughter looks like a Brazilian Indian.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Medieval Holofernes

Here a medieval illustration from the 15th century depicting Holofernes burning down a city. Despite there’s no Judith it shows why she had to do what she did.
Besides it’s interesting to see Holofernes and his men as typical medieval knights. It’s no old story, it’s something which could happen every day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Incarnation of Evil

There are various evil women in the Bible, above all Delilah and Salome. But without any doubt the worst of all is Jezebel. Delilah destroyed Samson, but finally could be conceded that she served her own people. Even Salome followed more the instructions of her mother than her own motivations. But most notably Jezebel destroyed not only one man, she attacked the Jewish religion itself.

Jezebel was a Phoenician princess and married Ahab the King of Israel (which was in this time divided in two Kingdoms). She gained great influence with Ahab so that he converted to the religion of the Phoenician god Baal.

Temples of Baal were opened in Israel and it is said that Jezebel fostered there a cult of sexual permissiveness. Priest of Yahweh were persecuted and often killed.

After Ahab's death, Jezebel controlled the kingdom with the help of her sons, first Ahaziah and then Jehoram. At least the prophet Elisha proclaimed Jehu king of Israel, who killed Jehoram and then entered the palace of Jezebel. He ordered that she was thrown out of the window. Her dead body was left in the street to be eaten by dogs.

Later Jezebel’s name became a synonym for worshipping false gods, sexual immorality, manipulation, seduction and not at least promiscuity.

But different from others like Delilah or Salome she never became very popular in art. Maybe because she was too evil. There are some paintings, mostly depicting her cruel death, but nothing to compare with the popularity of Salome.

This changed in the 20th century when the promiscuous fame proved to be helpful in selling books and movies.

Here a paperback cover from 1963 by the famous pulp artist Robert McGinnis (born 1926). It demonstrates perfectly why Jezebel became so popular in more recent times.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Freudian Nightmares

Salome by the French Symbolist painter Gustave-Adolphe Mossa (1883-1971) probably painted in the first decade of the 20th century.

Mossa uses the old biblical story to illustrate the fear of man slaughtering Lolitas. His blood licking child-woman is a modern Freudian interpretation of male nightmares.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hagar Saved

Hagar and Ismael in the Widerness (1732) by the Italian rococo painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770).

Poor Hagar and Ismael are nearly dying when the angel appeared. Despite all this suffering in the hostile desert Hagar is still a well dressed rococo lady with a perfect hairstyle and makeup.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another Perfect Nude

Lot and his daughters by the Flemish manierist painter Jan Massys (c. 1509-1575).

One more of Massys’ perfect nudes. It’s interesting to compare this painting with his Bathsheba. The similarities are evident. Both paintings are mere constructions around that perfectly painted nudes, the burning Sodom and the mother in the back provide the historical background.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Art Deco Susanna

Susanna bathing by the Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980).

Lempicka was a great star of the art scene in the 1920s and 1930s. Her Susanna is a modern woman of the 1930s and there is absolutely no sign of historicization.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Exotic Women finding Moses

The Discovery of Moses (1888) by the Canadian painter Paul Peel (1860-1892).

Peel studied in London and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Gérôme and others. So it isn’t surprising that his painting reminds a lot of that works by Alma-Tadema or Gérôme who had great success with women in exotic or historical settings.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fainting Queen Esther

Queen Esther before. King Ahasuerus (c. 1815) by the Slovenian painter Francesco Caucig (1755-1828).

Although Caucig is a lesser known artist his painting is a good example of the neoclassical style which dominated art at from the end of the 18th century. Interesting is also that Caucig didn’t use an entire classical scenery but rather something more oriental, that’s probably a result of the influence of historical studies.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lament of Jephthah's Daughter

The Lament of Jephthah's Daughter by the Britisch Victorian painter George Elgar Hicks (1824-1914).

Hicks was specialized in romantic settings with a dramatic illumination. And in this way he painted here the poor child lamenting her sacrifice.