The Sadistic Judith? – posted in Boulder, CO November 14, 2022

All images: WIP Judith Series – Sherry Wiggins and Luis Filipe Branco, 2022

I have been editing the images I made with Luis Branco in Holland in October.

The night that Judith took the head of Holofernes began with a feast. Holofernes got very drunk.

There are many readings of Judith’s story: that Judith was doing “God’s will” to protect her people with her own hand; or that she was/ is a feminist super heroine taking revenge on the evil general Holofernes (or even for all woman against all men who have abused them); or as Claude Cahun portrayed Judith in her 1925 essay as “The Sadistic Judith.” I see all of these readings in my performance of Judith. The revenge angle or the “me too” angle is the most compelling to me.

“The Sadistic Judith”  is the 1925 essay by Claude Cahun’s in their Heroines text. Here Judith describes the fictional general Holofernes:

“ We have to believe that he despises women, and doesn’t hide it (after all, he himself says so); that he is coarse, as only a warrior can be. After he kissed his slave, he would furtively wipe his lips. He doesn’t remove his garments for fear of soiling his body more than absolutely necessary. During nights of love, his boots are stained with the crimson in which he wallows, symbolically dyed with the red poison of his victims, tracking everywhere, according to the season, the dust or mud of the roads, or worse. But as the cock crows, he has his bath, sends the girl away—and has the sheets changed (blood clotted on silk sheets).”

Here are a few of my representations / embodiments / drag portrayals of Judith after the slaying of Holofernes. This first one is after one of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith paintings.

This next one is after Jan Massys 1543 painting.

And this is after Giorgione’s 1504 painting. And the next three images show Judith’s ambivalence and horror the “morning after” after the act.

You can read my previous blog post with the stories and representations of Judith that I was thinking about before (and during) my own performances of Judith: