Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

In Defense of Photographer Tyler Shields and Comedienne Kathy Griffin

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, June 1, 2017

Much Ado About Nothing?

“Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” by Cristofano Allori, c.1613

Photographer Tyler Shields‘ recent depiction of comedienne Kathy Griffin holding an effigy of Donald Trump’s decapitated head is nothing new in artistic circles, neither is it new among political practitioners, or religious adherents.

“Judith Beheading Holofernes,” by Caravaggio, c.1598-1599

Caravaggio painted “Judith beheading Holoferenes” c.1600.

Cristofano Allori, completed “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” c.1613.

Artemisia Gentileschi, c.1614–18 similarly depicted that scene in “Judith slaying Holofernes.”

“Judith,” by Franz Stuck, 1928

Lucas Cranach the Elder completed “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” in 1530.

“Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, c.1530

The so-called “outrage” is focused upon the female model Kathy Griffin, not the male creator artist and photographer Tyler Shields.


Men have always been fearful of powerful women. And Tyler Shields’ photograph is nothing new under the sun.

In The Book of Judith – a sacred text in the Roman Catholic Bible, considered Apocryphal literature by Protestants, and non-canonical by Jews – the story of Judith, a young attractive Jewish widow who today would be called a cougar, MILF, horny widow, or slut, is told. And yet, it is not her story, per se, as much as it is her story as a heroine, who saves the people of Israel… she is a veritable “Wonder Woman” before her time.

Judith with the Head of Holophernes, c.17th century second quarter, by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1609–1662)

The motif of deliverance “by the hand of a female” is constant throughout Book of Judith.

“Judith I,” by Gustav Klimt, 1901

Thought to have been written c.100BC, the Book of Judith (whose name translates simply as “Jewish woman”) tells the story during King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, in which Judith kills an enemy general, and the ignominious defeat of the Assyrians, which at the time, was an army bent on world domination.

Interestingly, the Book of Judith is replete with double entendres and ironic scenarios.

As the story is told, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Nineveh, sent General Holofernes to subdue the Jews, and besieged Bethulia, a city on the southern verge of the Plain of Esdrelon.

“Judith slaying Holofernes,” by Artemisia Gentileschi, c.1614–18

Achior, the Ammonite (a pagan Assyrian), spoke in defense of the Jews, and was mistreated by General Holoferenes who sent him into the besieged city to await his punishment at the time when Holofernes was scheduled to overtake it. In a sense, Achior is Judith’s “alter ego,” and represents the ideology that people like proselytes and marginalized widows like Judith are not only to be included in the society, but can, and should be community leaders.

Sebald Beham engraving of 1547

In the process, famine afflicted the city, and even the most brave lost heart, but not Judith, who severely scolded them and announced that she would deliver the city.

“Judith beheading Holofernes,” by Cornelis Galle the Elder, c.1610, at Warsaw University Library

She went into Assyrian General Holoferenes’ camp, captivates him with her beauty, seduces and pleases him, and when he got drunk, she cut of his head, and carried it out in a basket to show the nation-tribe of Israel that they weredelivered. The Book of Judith closes with a celebratory hymn by her to the Almighty which states in part:

“The Assyrian came from the mountains of the north, with myriads of his forces he came; Their numbers blocked the wadies, their cavalry covered the hills.

“Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” by Giovanni Baglione, 1608

“He threatened to burn my territory, put my youths to the sword, Dash my infants to the ground, seize my children as plunder. And carry off my virgins as spoil.

Woodcut illustration for the Nuremberg Chronicles, 1493

“But the Lord Almighty thwarted them, by the hand of a female!

12th century French ivory gaming piece depicting Judith beheading Holofernes

“Not by youths was their champion struck down, nor did Titans bring him low, nor did tall giants attack him;

“But Judith, the daughter of Merari, by the beauty of her face brought him down.

“She took off her widow’s garb to raise up the afflicted in Israel. She anointed her face with fragrant oil; fixed her hair with a diadem, and put on a linen robe to beguile him.

“Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty captivated his mind, the sword cut through his neck!

“The Persians trembled at her boldness, the Medes were daunted at her daring.”

“Kathy Beheading Trump” Based on the famous painting: “Judith beheading Holofernes”

“Judith II,” by Gustav Klimt, 1909

Comedienne Kathy Griffin with effigy decapitated head of Donald Trump by Photographer Tyler Shields, 2017

“Judith and Holofernes,” by Donatello, 1457–64

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