Saturday, 10 January 2015

How To Get A Head In Life

Answer: a good, sharp sword.

In the Book of Judith, Judith is a hot widow who wants to save Israel from the Assyrians.  So, she cozies up to the powerful Assyrian general Holofernes, who really wants to tap her Lord-Enhanced Loveliness.  When she finally agrees to party with him one night, he gets super drunk and passes out, and she takes the opportunity to behead him.  Really, it’s a lot like the story of Samson and Delilah, except the powerful idiot who can’t keep it in his pants is considered a villain, and the lady trying to murder him is the hero.  Also, Judith was intelligent enough to realize that 99% of the time, beheading is more effective for permanently stopping someone than tying the guy up with bowstrings.

The Judith-Beheading-Holofernes story was apparently quite popular in art for many years.  Of the ones I’ve found, this one by Caravaggio is my favorite, for the sole reason that they all have fantastic facial expressions.
Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio, c. 1598-99 (Source)
First, the beheadee:

That is certainly an appropriate face to have while being beheaded, although I thought he was supposed to be unconscious, which was how this whole thing came about.  I guess his neck looks to be sort of three quarters severed at that point, which probably took a few whacks, so maybe he woke up when he had been liberated of a few tendons?

Also note the spurting blood that resembles party streamers bursting from a horrible piñata.

Judith's expression is even better, holding the head at arm’s length and looking a bit grossed out by the whole prospect, like a Jane Austen heroine tasked with pig-slaughtering duty.

But the person most excited in this scene is Judith’s servant.

This little old lady is ready to go with her head-transportation sack, fists clenched with anticipation, saying “Yes yes yesyesYESYES MURDER THAT #@$@# REAL GOOD!!”


  1. Holo also seems to be pulling out the party streamers with his left hand. Caravaggio was clearly too squeamish to watch a real beheading as part of his research. Or maybe he just couldn't paint squirting fluids, which would have made him useless for the porn market. The old woman would have been perfect for the part of Gagool in a faithful film version of King Solomon's Mines. Is Judith beheading him with a cut throat razor? I'd like to feel the muscles in her forearms!

    1. Not everyone can be an expert porn painter, I suppose. There were enough people painting naked ladies that I doubt there was a real shortage of whacking material.

      She does seem to be a reasonably swarthy lady. Maybe someone should take another look into how she became a widow...

  2. Judith is bold for wearing white to a beheading. Doesn't she know that's a fashion faux-pas? Oh, maybe that's what her expression means, "uh oh, no, no, control the spurting, spurt over there, watch the linen."

    1. Maybe she was trying to start a new fashion trend of stylish blood splatters on a light background. Like ripped jeans for an earlier epoch?

  3. Obviously a summer killing. In many places it's unacceptable to wear white after Labor day. Not that a head job isn't a labor of love... moving on.

    I don't know - does that sword seem a bit fragile? I would have expected something more substantial. Then again, maybe he awoke thinking she was giving him a shave? The smallness of the blade might have been an unknown advantage. He does seem to be awake. His face really leaves us pondering, does it not? (No, not today.)

    I suspect Dame Judith was disappointed at the lack of control, and accuracy with said sword. Maybe her defining chalk line had disappeared. Possibly she was miffed, not having used the latest Japanese slice-like-rice-set, her servant had brought in the bag. Or had 'he' forgotten the set entirely?

    Little and old maybe - but that's no Lady! Yes, how convenient to be thought of as a tiny woman of scruples. I say it was his idea. No head job for him - give it to the other guy then. Competition is out of the way. Nothing but an an old sack to carry the memory of rejection straight out the door.


    1. I suppose one has to use the murder weapon that circumstances allow you. I am sure she would have preferred to use the broadsword she keeps at home, but that is trickier to sneak into an enemy camp under the guise of seduction. Perhaps the extra exertion required with the blade available was conversely more satisfying for Judith, since he woke up in the process and could do little about it?

    2. Oh yes, I see your point. An issue she simply couldn't skirt.

    3. You make an excellent point that should be addressed. Unfortunately, I have no more cutting remarks. ^^;;