Kathy Griffin and the Severed Head

The people getting hysterical over this business are clearly unaware of a couple of high cultural references.

First, Judith severing the head of Holofernes, painted by a remarkable Renaissance artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. (I tried to grab and copy the whole painting in here but I’m just incompetent at such stuff, so hit the link and blow the painting up.)

It’s a good idea to read the history of Artemisia, especially this bit (and what follows in the link I’ve provided. Ladies, you’ll grind your teeth down):

Orazio [Artemisia’s father] painted frescos with the artist, Agostino Tassi, whom he asked to teach her daughter perspective. During these lessons, Tassi raped the 18 year old Artemisia, and promising to soon marry her, continued to demand her sexual favors. When her father found out, Tassi was arrested for rape, and Artemisia was thrust into the middle of a celebrated rape case which received considerable publicity and ruined her reputation. Tassi was convicted, but released by the judge, who also ordered Artemisia to be tortured as a means of proving her honesty. The transcripts of the trial are still available today.

Second, nobody screaming about Kathy Griffin and that rather abstract severed head has seen the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Salome.

Based on the Oscar Wilde play, it’s a shocker, especially with Karita Mattila as Salome. If you click on the link above, you’ll be able to rent the video. It’s only one act and it keeps on moving, right up until Salome erotically embraces the bloody severed head of John the Baptist and her stepfather, Herod, watching in horror, emits the last lines in the opera: “Kill the woman,” (although he says it in German) and then there are some Richard Straussian HUGE, HARSH, KILLER chords, it’s over and you might find yourself falling on the floor.

In any case, severed heads connected to notable women are not horrifyingly new. They’ve been expressed in art, in drama, in music so why not dark comedy?

Lay off Kathy Griffin or I’ll frown.




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