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MASTERPIECES OF EROTIC ART – GUSTAV KLIMT July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918)– JUDITH 1. (Link to the painting).

Judith is one of history’s great femme fatales. She killed a military general called Holofernes by severing his head after getting him drunk and seducing him. She acted to save the Jewish people from being invaded by his forces on behalf of Assyria’s King Nebuchadnezzer. The incident is recorded in the Bible’s Apocryphal Book Of Judith.

Some scholars believe that Klimt’s dark, sultry portrait of Judith (the first of several of his treatments of the subject – hence it’s numbering), was originally about Salome collecting the head of John The Baptist, but that the painter changed his mind about the subject matter. There are crucial differences. Judith killed her victim herself, as is depicted here, while Salome ordered the Baptist’s execution to be conducted by a third party. .

Judith emanates eroticism, wealth and power. Her shoulders and one breast is covered in rich golden brown cloth, though this is transparent enough to show the flesh. Her other breast is left shamelessly bare.

She flaunts a giant, heavy necklace; a reward for affections never truly offered. Judith represents the woman no man can ever please, but who many a man would die trying to satisfy. She bears an aura of cruelty. There is cunning and slyness in her eyes.

Judith clutches the freshly severed head of Holofernes, which still drips fresh blood, which must seep down Judith’s unseen leg like the blood of menstruation.  Her wild afro-hair shines like a demonic halo. Her eyelids hang down in relaxed sexuality as in a woman who has just relaxed following an orgasm. The murder has aroused her as fully as true sex. Judith is depicted as a necrophile – a monster, but one many men would try to satisfy, before being destroyed as the female devours the male Black Widow. It’s an unfair representation, given her historic motive being to prevent a war. Klimt’s Judith has killed more for personal satisfaction.

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell