My Books For Your Reading Pleasure

My Books For Your Reading Pleasure
Proud Indie Author

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creative Connections Artist/Writer Collaboration

You are invited to attend the reception taking place in the Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre, Elliot Lake, this afternoon (Tuesday, March 27th) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.  celebrating Creative Connections, the Artist/Writer collaborative exhibition which has been on display there in the Welcome Lobby throughout the month of March.

Here is your opportunity to meet the authors, the visual artists and to enjoy a pleasant afternoon.

If basement reno doesn't keep me away I will hope to see you there.

As it turns out I am sorry to say I missed this afternoon's presentation.  Below is a picture of the beautiful painting created by my collaboration partner, Elaine Vegeris.  Below the painting are the words her painting inspired me to write.

The Maidservant

By Audrey Austin
This partial recreation of Artemisia Gentilleschi’s Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes with the artist’s focus on the Maidservant is an acrylic painting by Elaine Vegeris.  The original painting was created c. 1625. Elaine’s interpretation has inspired me to think about what daily life must have been like for this beautiful maidservant.
Much has been written about the Biblical Judith.  The Book of Judith is a deuterocanonical book meaning it is a book whose inclusion in the canon of scripture is debated.  It is included in the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures redacted in the third and second centuries B.C. by Jewish scholars and adopted by Greek speaking Christians) as well as the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian Old Testament of the Bible yet the Book of Judith is excluded from the Bible by the Jews and Protestants.
What I have learned about Judith is that she was a beautiful, daring widow who goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes.  There she entices him with her charming beauty and ingratiates herself into his life.  She gains his trust.  One night while he is laying in a drunken stupor she decapitates him.  She then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen.  The Assyrian enemy, having lost its leader in this way, disperses and Israel is saved … so goes the story.
Some call this story the first historical novel ever written.  As for me, I don’t know if this story is fact or fiction but if it is fiction Judith, indeed, makes a fine heroine with Holofernes, the villain.
But what of the Maidservant?
The original of this painting was created in the 17th century and at that time servants often lived in the main part of a house with their employers.  Perhaps the original artist thought that this particular Maidservant lived in the main part of Judith’s house.  In those long ago times servants had a greater social standing than their 18th century peers. Servants included gentlewomen and often poor relations of the owners.  Perhaps the artist felt that these two women, Judith and her Maidservant, must have been related.  No doubt they shared an irrevocable bond.  In the painting Judith holds the sword but it is the Maidservant who holds the victim’s head in her hands. 
In this wonderful interpretation painted by Elaine Vegeris we see a lovely young woman who appears very worried and watchful.  We feel the tension knowing the young woman is in imminent danger.  Can you imagine the overwhelming emotion she feels as she endures such a horrific experience?  We see above her head the sword of Holofernes.  Held in the hand of her mistress, Judith, this is the weapon which does the deed.  In this focused painting we do not see that in her hands this Maidservant holds the decapitated head of Holofernes but we do see terror in her fear-filled face.
The Maidservant in this painting may well have been a relative of the famous Judith of Biblical times.  Indeed she was instrumental in ensuring that the daring deed had a successful resolution.  I see yearning and fear in the eyes of this lovely Maidservant with the bloodied hands.
History has considered her important enough to be mentioned.  It is said that Judith and her faithful maid take the decapitated head back to Bethulia and display it from the outer walls of the town.  Upon seeing the head of Holofernes the enemy troops know they have lost their leader.  Knowing they are easy prey for the Israelite troops they waste no time in departing.
Judith is hailed as a national heroine, as so she should be, but what of her Maidservant?
Was she not as lovely, as brave, as loyal, and as heroic as her mistress?  How sad that this Maidservant throughout history remains in the background, not considered worthy of the acclamation bestowed upon Judith.
 The name of Judith’s Maidservant is Abra which means the mother of many.  Indeed the name Abra is the feminine form of Abraham.  I wonder if Judith’s Maidservant yearned for fame and acclamation or did she find comfort and safety in such invisibility.  Had Judith taken her Maidservant into her confidence?  Did the Maidservant share Judith’s convictions?  Did she simply follow the orders of her Mistress or was Abra a willing accomplice to murder?
We will never know.  We can but wonder.
I am grateful to the wonderful artists, including Elaine Vegeris, who have cared enough to paint Abra’s portrait, allowing us to know about her and the powerful role this Maidservant played in saving her people from the Syrian enemy.

Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes.

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