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Not A Podcast Episode 11: Blood Sweat and Paint

Judith Beheading Holofernes, By Artemisia Gentileschi, Via Wikipedia

“Judith Beheading Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi, via Wikipedia

In which we contrast Artemisia Gentileschi’s bloody “Judith Slaying Holofernes” with Sean’s bloody nose. (If you faint at the sound of blood, this episode might not be for you.)

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One of the most fun names to say in art history: Artemisia Gentileschi

Here’s her self portrait.

Let’s start with the story behind the Gentileschi’s painting of Judith Slaying Holofernes. The Israeli city of Bethulia was under siege by Assyrians led by General Holofernes (first name; Jim). Judith enters the enemy camp, pretending to be a turncoat. The Assyrians figure it’s cool because she’s beautiful. She gives the Assyrians some intel, and they hold off on attacking for a few days.

In that time, Judith gets under the General’s skin, and he invites her over for dinner. He just keeps drinking and drinking and drinking. When he’s zonked, Judith decapitates him, stuffs the head in the maidservant’s food bag, and they sneak back to Bethulia. Holoferne’s head is stuck on the walls, and the Assyrians scatter.

This is considered an apocryphal story, not historical.

Gentileschi came back to this subject a lot. Five of these paintings survive. Here’s one of her more famous versions:

Judith and Holofernes (Google Art Project)

Caravaggio’s take on the same subject (Wikipedia)

Gentileschi was one of the most accomplished Baroque painters. She made this when she was 17: Susanna and the Elders.

Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, started out as a Mannerist but after the wave of Caravaggio’s influence spread, he took on a more naturalistic style — Artemisia also painted in a naturalistic style. When she was 18, her father hired his friend Tassi as her tutor. Tassi raped Artemisia. There is a lot to this story, and I highly recommend the book “Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art” by Mary D. Garrard.

To summarize, Gentileschi continued sleeping with Tassi after the rape, in hopes that he would marry her to “restore her dignity.” Enlightenment, sure, relatively speaking. A glowbug in a moonless forest still makes things brighter. After 7 months, Orazio took Tassi to court, on the basis that Artemisia was a virgin – otherwise there would have been no case. Gentileschi testified while being tortured with thumbscrews – basically a vice for your thumbs – to keep her honest. In Mary D. Garrard’s book is the actual testimony from the case, in which Gentileschi describes tossing a sword at Tassi after he raped her.

Anyway, read the book. To jump to the end; they won. Which basically meant Tassi was sentenced to prison for one year. Time of which he served: zilch.

Back to Judith slaying Holofernes. Still an early work, between 1614-1620. Chiaroscuro up the wazoo – the three figures are melting out of an inky black hole. Judith and her maidservant’s expressions stolid, but not melodramatic. They could be butchering a pig. Holofernes looks like he has accepted his fate, or is just too drunk to realize the extent of it. To represent Holofernes she used the visage of Tassi, her rapist.

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Not A Podcast Episode 10: Ferrrnaaando Boterrrro!

Fernando Botero, Bird (1990), By Andy Wright, Via Wikipedia

“Fernando Botero, Bird (1990)” by Andy Wright, via Wikipedia, CC-BY-2.0

In which we get completely stuffed, crammed to the gills, couldn’t possibly fit anymore, no dessert, well, maybe just a mint, it is wafer thin, why not – with the work of Fernando Botero.

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  1. Masacre de Mejor Esquina – Google Art Project
  2. Fernando Botero Works – Google Art Project
  3. Fernando Botero’s view of Abu Ghraib atrocities – sfgate
  4. Parmigiano’s “Madonna with the Long Neck” – with bonus stretched out man-like baby jesus –

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Not A Podcast Episode 9: Correlation and Cajolery

World's Most Accurate Pie Chart, Via Flickr

“World’s Most Accurate Pie Chart” via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

In which Sean’s foot correlates almost precisely with his mouth, no matter how much cajolery he dishes out.

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Show Notes and Links

  1. A Look at Artists Who are Selling Well | Xanadu Gallery’s 2014 State of the Art Survey (
  2. Spurious Correlations finds the hidden, totally pointless connections between everything (

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Not A Podcast Episode 8: Sweaty Blues

Potion, By Steve Jurvetson, Via Flickr

“Potion” by Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

In which we learn how cyanide gives art the blues.

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Show Notes

Yes, Art has Practical Uses: Prussian Blue’s Place in the History of Cyanide

Some quotes from TBH:

“Whether swallowed or inhaled, all members of the cyanide family kill in the same way–they shut down the body’s ability to carry or absorb oxygen”

“…most murderers tended to avoid cyanide–the poison left a too-obvious trail of evidence. The resulting corpse would be a textbook study in violent death, marked by bruising discoloration, twisted by the last convulsions, often eerily scented with cyanide’s characteristic warning perfume, a faint, fruity scent of almonds.”

Deborah Blum, The Blue History of Cyanide

Almonds, peach/apricot pits, blue green algae, lots of plants contain some level of cyanide that can be concentrated down. But cyanides became much more readily available after Heinrich Diesbach, German Painter, chemist, inventor, invented Prussian Blue in 1704.

The original recipe; “dried blood, potash (potassium carbonate), and green vitriol (iron sulfate), [stewed] over an open flame.” He called it Berlin blue, and the English later named it Prussian Blue. This was the first modern synthetic paint. Cheap to make, lightfast, nontoxic, and a very strong color.

In the 1770’s or 80s, a Swedish chemist used Prussian blue in a concoction that yielded a very potent acid (Prussic or hydrocyanic acid). This also resulted in a gas called Hydrogen Cyanide, which could be made into poisonous cyanide salts – all of which turned out to have industrial uses.

More from TPH:

“Hydrogen cyanide (gas), if it was distilled into a liquid, a mere drop, a raindrop-sized dose (about 50 milligrams) could be fatal.”

“pesticides, explosives, engraving, and tempering steel, as a disinfecting agent, in creating colorful dyes, … in mining, as well as in photography, electroplating, metal polishing.” Cyanotypes, blueprints.

And from Wikipedia:

“Pharmaceutical-grade Prussian blue in particular is used for patients who have ingested thallium or radioactive caesium. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an adult male can eat at least 10g of Prussian blue per day without serious harm.”

“To date, the Entombment of Christ, dated 1709 by Pieter van der Werff (Picture Gallery, Sanssouci, Potsdam) is the oldest known painting where Prussian blue was used. Around 1710, painters at the Prussian court were already using the pigment. At around the same time, Prussian blue arrived in Paris, where Antoine Watteau and later his successors Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste Pater used it in their paintings.”

More on the history of Prussian Blue

A great site that gives all sorts of interesting info for color nerds

We don’t have any experience with these, so can’t recommend them, but let us know if you do:

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Not A Podcast Episode 7: Just A Little Podcast

Banana Extract, By JD Hancock Photos, Via Flickr

“Banana Extract” by JD Hancock Photos, via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

In the second in our (completely unplanned) Curmudgeon Series, Pete beats up on tiny, defenseless works of art.

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  1. Willard Wigan’s TED Talk
  2. Snopes Article
  3. Willard Wigan’s Website
  4. Fernan Federici’s Flickr
  5. Spectacular Microscopic Art Is Also World-Changing Science

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Not A Podcast Episode 6: Trading Idiots

Wall Art

Sean tells HGTV to git off his lawn. Or at least to stop trying to recreate a crappy version of Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe on it.

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  1. HGTV – House Hunters
  2. Trading Spaces
  3. British – Changing Rooms
  4. HGTV – The High Low Project
  5. Chuck Close: A Portrait In Progress
  6. Wine And Canvas

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Not A Podcast Episode 5: “Because God is Dead.”

Russian art gallery

 Pete and Sean go to the museum. The art is terrible.<br />
 "Why is the art terrible?" says Pete.<br />
 "Because it is a projection of our subconscious. Therefore, we are terrible," says Sean.<br />
 "Oh," says Pete.

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  1. Ladybird Books (Wikipedia)
  2. A Darkly Humorous Children’s Book That Pokes Fun At Modern Art
  3. Artist’s spoof Ladybird book provokes wrath of Penguin (
  4. We Go To The Gallery Kickstarter
  5. Miriam Elia
  6. Building Stories, not by Chip Kidd (nytimes)
  7. Google Art Project
  8. Judy Albright’s pastel paintings – On show all month.
  9. Anne Pasko – beginning in June with reception on June 6th.
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Not A Podcast Episode 4 Part 2: Bapbapbapbapbap

Bochum - Klinikstraße - Tierpark 06 ies

We ended up talking too much about talking, so Sean decides to speak as a penguin for the rest of the podcast. Also, you should hang out with artists and give them money.

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  1. New York Times Arts section
  2. The Portland Art Museum – free general admission on the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8 p.m.
  3. First Friday Artswalk at Steven Valenti’s Clothing For Men – Through April – Opening Reception, Friday, April 4th, 2014
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Not A Podcast Episode 4 Part 1: Erotically Verbose

Kryptos01 1, background removed

We answer the great artist debate over cheese and chalk; which tastes better? And use words to talk about language.

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  1. Painting in the Style of Old Masters: Sfumato and Chiaroscuro
  2. Cindy Sherman interview – Journal of Contemporary Art
  3. Disjecta Curator Talk
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Not A Podcast Episode 3: Suck It, Da Vinci

Reed–Solomon error correction Mona Lisa LroLrLasercomFig4

In which we may not know art, or even what we like. And we rekindle the public’s interest in the Mona Lisa. You’re welcome, Da Vinci.

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  1. Good Art Is Popular Because It’s Good. Right?
  2. Information about the theft of the Mona Lisa that Sean didn’t make up (Wikipedia)
  3. Huge Reproduction of Mona Lisa
  4. The Mona Lisa’s Twin Painting Discovered
  5. First Friday Artswalk at Steven Valenti’s Clothing For Men – Through April – Opening Reception, Friday, April 4th, 2014