|John William Godward: The Priestess (1895) There's an alternate version by the same artist here for those who like their priestesses softer and more nude.|
|Pedro Americo: Judith and Holofernes (1885)|
Judith vs Holofernes is the prime example of this theme. In fact Judith's many MANY appearances in paintings through the centuries could easily make up a whole blog-post on their own. Judith is an Old Testament heroine: when Israel was under seige by the Assyrians, she set out with a hamper of wine and sandwiches to the tent of enemy general Holofernes, got him drunk and happy, and then cut his head off. Depictions of Judith and Holofernes range from the subtle (above) to the outright sadistic.
|James Tissot: Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him (1902)|
|James Northcote: Jael and Sisera (1787)|
****Sticking with the Bible, and beheadings, we have Salome. The twerking she did for her stepfather King Herod drove him so crazy that he promised her anything she wanted - which turned out (at her mother's urging) to be the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
|F. Luis Mora: Salome (1899)|
There is no escaping the sado-masochistic aura artists have imbued this story with ever since. A devastatingly sexy woman who wants to cut off your head - it's the ultimate castration fear/fantasy.
|Aubrey Beardsley: Salome (1893)|
****From party princess to women who will kill to be queen ... Here's Lady Macbeth crowning herself with the murdered Duncan's crown.
|John Singer Sargent: Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth (1889)|
****And here's the ultimate hardcase queen: Clytemnesta, fresh from slaughtering her husband in the bath:
|John Collier: Clytemnestra (1882)|
It's pleasing to me that during a time when the self-effacing Virtuous Woman was put on a pedestal by society, there were still people out there deeply drawn to icons with ... more grit.
Some of us just like Scary.
|The statue of Boadicea at Westminster Bridge London - erected 1905|