Rome – Day 3: Beheadings and Swearings

It was a full day yesterday.  After Mass yesterday we broke the fast and then headed off the the Palazzo Braschi for the Artemesia exhibit.

Artemesia Gentileschi was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi and a fine painter in her own right, a rare female painter in the 17th century.   It was the time of Caravaggio and Galileo, whom she knew.  Marino writing poems about new art works as they appeared in salons.  Painters were swaggering, sword toting rockstars.  Artemesia had a tough time of things, as a woman in that business, including being raped by a painting tutor whom her father had hired. There was a humiliating prosecution of her attacker afterward.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but some of Artemesia’s best work involved the theme of women killing men.  I say “coincidence” because other painters of the period were often depicted the popular themes of, for example, Judith beheading Holofernes.  She also has great versions of Jael serenely hammering a spike through Sisera’s head as he slept.


She has such a calm expression, focused and unhurried with her hammer raised for the blow.

Her Judiths are similarly calm, but focused.   Holofernes is focused too, but not in a calm way.

A couple versions side by side, which was a treat.



Another moment in the process, Judith and faithful Abra are on their way out when they hear something.   Alas, not a great shot from this angle.  You can find better online.    This is closer to the version in Detroit.


David with the head of Goliath was popular in the period, as were penitent Magdalen, dying Lucretia, and Cleopatra.

Later in the day, we had the great pleasure of attending the annual swearing in ceremony for the new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

Some of you will recall that we of this blog had a wonderful project of having custom armor made for one the Corporals.  Engraved on his breastplate are St. Joseph and St. Joan of Arc.  It does get cooler than that.

Here is a close up of our guy and his armor.



I have a few videos to give you a taste:

How they swear…

And… see how windy it was.  They can barely hold the flag and swords.

After the Giuramento, we headed off to supper with a stop at the famous Castroni for some coffee.


Fending off death by starvation…


Lamb… perfect.


And life without puntarelle… is… well… is it really life?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in On the road, What Fr. Z is up to and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Charivari Rob says:

    Re: choosing Artemesia themes for today’s presentation

    Great timing.

    As I got out of the shower this morning, I heard my wife singing to herself – He Had It Coming from Chicago.

    Thanks awfully, Father Z. If anybody needs me, I’ll be barricading the doors and flinching with paranoia at unexpected sounds.

  2. benedetta says:

    Epick, Father!

  3. Mike says:

    I’ll bet you a dinner at the best Chinese restaurant in the nation’s capital that some gender theorist, bereft of irony, writes in to damn your Artimesia commentary as misogynistic.

  4. guans says:

    Sorry about the link above not working.
    I did an internet search and the recipe came up, but the link changed when I copied it.

  5. joekstl says:

    . On the comments about women from Scripture in art: it’s a shame that Mary of Magdela is usually identified with the woman caught in adultery; hence the reference to the “penitent Magdalene”. This conflating of Marys comes from Pope Gregory. There is no biblical evidence to make such an equation.

    [True. They were conflated. And this goes waaaay back.]

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks for the photos Fr. Z, and the video clips of the Swiss Guard.

Comments are closed.