Bad Girls of the Bible – Elisabeth Hodge    

Description: Many artists honored their faith by illustrating stories within the bible. The women of early Christianity have starred in many artworks. This gallery includes representations of the more sinful females. Join me as we learn lessons, on what not to do to, from our ancient sisters depicted in art: The Bad Girls of the Bible. 

Andrea Ansaldo painted the detailed and emotional scene of Herodias presented with the Head of the Baptist by Salome. Herodias’ husband told their daughter, Salome, that she could have anything she desired. Wanting revenge on the man who labeled her marriage as “sinful”, Herodias convinced Salome to request John the Baptist to be beheaded. Highlighted in brighter colors than the other subjects, the emphasis is on the mother and her obedient daughter. With widened white eyes and red cheeks, the artist effectively used color to expose the raw emotions of vengeful Herodias. Light and shadows accurately illustrate the life-like folds of the nobles’ heavy attire. The angled and horizontal lines of the stairs bring attention to the background scene where an audience looks upon a headless body.
The portrait, Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist, was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. After pleasing her father with her siren-like dance, true bad girl of the Bible, Salome, could have anything she wished. Wanting revenge on the man who disapproved of her marriage, Salome’s mother persuaded her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Against the dark background, young Salome’s pale skin and royal attire holds prominence in the painting. The sheen of Salome’s clothing creates movement and draws the eyes down towards the platter. The mid-section of the dress is a bright white and effectively contrasts against the brown curls of the disembodied head.
Sampson and Delilah, by José Echenagusía, illustrates the deceptive relationship between mighty Sampson and Delilah. Sampson is shown lounged across the bedding with one hand caressing his hair, which is also the secret to his immense strength. With the use of color and movement, the artist perfectly sets the scene of the betrayal ahead. Though shown in a relaxed manner, the masculinity of Sampson’s body grabs the attention of the viewer. The painting uses shadows and lighting to accurately draw the war hero’s chiseled muscles. Sampson’s eyes cause movement, as they are adoringly fixed on Delilah. To show the dishonesty, José Echenagusía paints Delilah in a pale and tense position. This painted scene is the foreshadowing of Delilah’s unfaithfulness as she discloses Sampson’s secret weapon to his enemies.
Jezebel and Ahab is a woodcut piece carved by the artist Lucas van Leyden to illustrate Jezebel’s wicked method to obtain what she wanted. In the biblical tale, Jezebel’s husband requires a piece of land, but the owner refused to sell. To secure the land, Jezebel arranged for the landowner to be killed. To depict her sinful character, the artist carved Jezebel’s features to appear aggressive. Her bedridden husband, Ahab, was carved with more intricate lines, which portray a softer and innocent subject. Depth is created with the outline of the door, and a smaller scene in the background shows the landowner being killed.
The Fall of Man, painted by Hendrik Goltzius, illustrates the birth of sin through Eve’s seduction over the first man, Adam. The couple lays comfortably in the nude, as Eve persuades Adam to take a bite from the forbidden fruit. Almost camouflaged, the infamous snake, with the face of a woman, observes from apple tree. Goltzius effectively paints the sinful scene with color contrast, texture and balance. The emphasis is on Adam and Eve’s lounging bodies, which take up the majority of the foreground. The color of the subjects’ skin appears more vivid against the landscape’s brown and green hues. Shadow and light are used to create the womanly curves that caused the fall of man.
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, painted by Guido Reni, represents the biblical adulteress, known only as Potiphar’s wife, as she presents herself to Joseph. The artist captures the scene realistically with the use of light and contrasting colors. A loyal employee of her husband, Joseph hastily refuses the inappropriate advance and backs away into the darkened background. The skin coloring of the subjects is vastly different. Highlighting the guilty subject, the emphasis of the painting is on Potiphar’s wife. Her pale skin contrasts drastically with her blue dress and grey linens, whereas Joseph’s skin blends with his golden robes. The use of light creates a sheen on the lavish draperies and bed cloths, which adds to the life-like feel of the painting.
Kiki Smith created the sculpture, Lot’s Wife. God’s angels were sent to destroy the unholy land of Sodom, and gave warning to Lot and his family: Genesis 19:17 gives warning: “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” The sculpture illustrates Lot’s Wife’s disobedience and consequence of death. As soon as she turned back to glance at the past, God turned her into a pillar of salt and died immediately. The artist molded this sculpture with “silica bronze on a steel stand” giving the rough texture of salt.
This painting, Lot and his Daughters was created by the artist Franceschini. The piece paints a picture of the sinful incest initiated by Lot’s daughters. Following their mother’s sudden death as they fled their burning city, the daughters believed their only chance of reproduction was through their father. The daughters and their desperation are highlighted against the darker skin tone of their father. The daughter in blue’s face is much brighter and catches the eye first. As she looks up at her father, movement is created. The viewer is then aware of the second daughter, her eyes averted as she generously pours the wine. Behind the immoral scene, is a dark and smoky background, representing the city of Sodom’s destruction. The artist creates additional life-like details by contouring colors to show the shadows upon their bodies and folds within the clothing.
This sculpture, Eve Disconsolate, by Hiram Powers, displays the sinful shame Eve felt following the fall of man. Once Adam and Eve were tempted to eat the forbidden fruit, wicked thoughts overcame their Eden. Carved out of marble, Eve looks up towards the sky in embarrassment as she covers her naked body with her hands. The artist carved Eve’s body with far less detail compared to the vine covered to tree to her left. This represents mankind’s lost perfection after the couple disobeyed God’s orders.
This piece, by Jean Bourdichon, paints the adulteress scene of King David’s lust over married woman, Bathsheba bathing. With her pale curvaceous body and golden hair against the blue water and bright green gardens, the artist places all emphasis on the soon-to-be mistress. Black paint strokes, above the bath’s waters, add depth to painting and shows Bathsheba partially concealed by the flowing water. To create further dimensions within the painting, King David is displayed much smaller in the background.
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