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The Past Has a Version Control Problem

was specifically designed to keep the wood blocks from deteriorating, with a higher altitude with ample ventilation. 

In 1995, the temple has become a UNESCO Heritage Site. in 2000, after painstaking work, the Tripitaka went digital! And, the monks are making a copper version as back-up. Lesson learned from history!  We have heard of several cases where AI is used to help preserve and analyze ancient religious documents, which previously required monks an entire lifetime and could be lost if the specialists died.


This section of WSC covers art history and the many versions of famous paintings and how they are influenced by the artists' era and beliefs. These artworks tell different versions of the same historical event, creating intentional distortions which shape culture.

The link above is to a article about the Biblical account of Judith and Holofernes in Book of Judith, and it is "a tale of female revenge, power and solidarity". Judith is a Jewish widow, who is known for her beauty. She is from the town of Bathulia, which was being invaded by an Assyrian general named Holofernes. She enters his tent, seduces him, he passes out with alcohol, and she 'brutally' cuts off his head. His head is taken away by an elderly servant named Abra. This story has inspired many artworks in the Renaissance and Baroque period, featuring the Power of Women. WSC wonders if they celebrate "female rage", what do you think?  

First up, this painting (right) is done by two Soviet artists in exile in the 1980s, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. The woman holds the decapitated head or broken statue of Joseph Stalin. In this artwork, I believe Stalin symbolizes the cruel oppressor, and the young women represents the modern generation of Soviets or Russians, fighting back to protect their homeland from totalitarianism. Unlike other paintings that feature a real man, the head of Stalin seems to be of a statue, as statues were used to promote Communist propaganda and give leaders God-like, supreme qualities.


Art critic Angelica Fey shares in this very insightful article the history and evolution of the story Judith beheading Holofernes. Each era, artists male and female, religious and non-religious, have imbued this Biblical story with their own interpretations. How would you describe Judith: warrior, religious wife, female assassin, beautiful noble woman, seductress, femme fatale, rape victim, minority underdog?  Historically, there have been two main types: 1) strong/virtuous woman  or 2) femme fatale (sexy dangerous woman).

Best recapped by the article: "Based on these examples, once can see that Judith acquired relevance during periods of cultural upheaval. A straightforwardly virtuous characterization in the Middle Ages, Judith became a warrior-goddess in the service of political allegory in the Renaissance; the embodiment of female rage in the Baroque era; and the textbook definition of a femme fatale in the late 19th century. It’s not surprising, then, that even in the 21st century, Judith still has something to say to modern audiences. Hers is the story of a woman who overpowers a much stronger enemy: Whether read through a feminist or political lens, the parable of the victorious underdog holds an undying appeal."  


The Evolution of Judith:

Middle Ages Judith - virtuous, honorable, loyal

Early Renaissance Judith - political, symbolized minority overcoming underdog (David and Goliath)  

Late Renaissance Judith - richly adorned noble woman, seductive and aggressive

Baroque Era Judith - gory, violent

19th century Judith - beautiful and wicked, more nude

21st century Judith - strong women taking down oppressors

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Caravaggio is one of the most well-known Italian painter of the 16th and 17th century for his religious and very shocking and realistic paintings. In his version, the moment is set at the climax of the beheading and reveals the complex emotions of the protagonists: Judith's maid Abra ready and eager, Judith determined yet disgusted, Holofernes strong, nude yet helpless. His depiction is all about drama.

Artemisia was one of the few esteemed female painters of her time (Baroque), and she was the first woman to be admitted to the Academy of Art and Design in Florence. Her father was one of the followers of Caravaggio, so she had studied in the realistic style. However, her version takes it even further showing Judith unafraid of the gore, slaying with blood splashing unto her breasts and a look of determination in her eyes. This seems to express Artemisia's willingness to venture in this unwomanly occupation. Unlike her female peers, she focused on history paintings instead of portraits, which required higher intellect, imagination, and artistic interpretation.

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This luxurious and sensual depiction of Judith is by famous Austrian artist Klimt. Klimt gained fame in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and you might have seen his famous work "The Kiss" (left). He founded the school of painting called Vienna Sezession, which focused on a highly decorative style (Art Nouveau), instead of classical art. Many of his works featured the use of gold leaf. In 2006, one of his well-known works auctioned for a record $135 million. His portrayal of Judith is not of a warrior with blood or gore, but rather as a dangerous seductress cradling the head of her victim. 


Pedro Américo was one of the most well-respected Brazilian artists of the late 1800s. His style fused neoclassic, realistic, and romantic styles. Unfortunately, not all of his works in literature or art is well remembered. His version (far left) of Judith features her dressed lavishly standing over the head of Holofernes and the bloody knife at her feet. She has a look of seduction and innocence that is different from the past interpretations with dramatic violence or gore. She seems to celebrate the conquest of an oppressor.

Kehinde Wiley is one of the most prominent contemporary African American artists and had his start in Harlem, New York. Since young, his mother had him pursue art to keep him off the streets. After he 

achieved fame internationally, he was selected to paint a portrait of Obama for the Smithsonian Museum. Wiley is known for his realistic portraiture and his “urban-meets-classical” style. His work explores the ways how race and power are represented in art.  His Judith comes from his series called "Economy of Grace", and features street casting, finding models or strangers off the streets. In this painting, the model, whom he met at a mall, wears a designer dress by Givenchy and holds the head of a white woman. Instead of its historical Biblical story, it symbolizes overcoming white supremacy for minority women of today.

Andres Valencia is no joke. In fact, he is an abstract art prodigy at age 10, with solo exhibitions and A-list collectors. Wow!

One of his most well-known pieces, "The Invasion of Ukraine", was his reaction to Russia's attack on Ukraine, which he modeled after Picasso’s iconic anti-war painting Guernica (1937). 500 prints of Valencia's painting are now sold for $950 each, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Klitschko Foundation for humanitarian aid to Ukraine. 


As one of the most famous paintings in the world, Guernica is perhaps Picasso's most iconic work and ​was created for the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. Picasso painted this in response to German aerial bombing of the town Guernica in the Basque region of Spain.  Spain was at the beginning of its civil war fought between Republicans and a brutal dictator General Francisco Franco (Nationalist). Picasso was devasted when he learned of the tragic news that 1/3 of the population Guernica had died during the air raids led by the Nationalists.

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Guernica features a cubist style in grayish tones, depicting the violence of war without any direct details to a specific event. Picasso mixes animal and human figures. Animal figures include a bull, stumbling horse and winged bird. The human figures include dead soldier, mother with dead child, and woman crying out to heavens from a burning house. Picasso did not give interpretations to his painting but rather leaves the public to interpret for themselves. Nevertheless, after many years of international tour, it has become the most famous anti-war painting in the world.  It is now housed in the Museum Prado in Spain.


"Backyard Guernica" is a video and installation art by American artist Adad Hannah from Georgia, United States in response to the 2016 American election, in which Donald Trump won the Presidency. She felt the time was now and urgent, so they quickly used protest materials: card board,  foam, wood, house paint. With 20 volunteers, they filmed this tribute 80 years after Guernica. It is currently being sold for $6,500. 

The same meditative restraint that I have used for many years in my artworks bridges the gap between a motionless painting and the movement and sound of an actual protest. -Adad Hannah


Part of an exhibition in 2021 called Guernica Remastered, Adad Hannah revisits Guernica and uses everyday objects to reinterpret the iconic artwork. During the process, Hannah worked with several friends, similar to how Picasso discussed his work with poets and artists during the making of Guernica. Additionally, to bring his work to life, Hannah also filmed the process, which extends the creative boundaries and timeframe of the piece. Constructed with brooms, pots and lamps, does this work still exude the same level or chaos and presents the same message? 


Robert Longo is a New York artist that features a unique style: intervention of the source image, which blocks off the original work with specific intention, opening to new interpretations. This monumental version done in charcoal changes the triangular composition of the original work.  “I thought of the frames of a film and the flicker of black and white news reels of the past, the bars of a prison, or the redaction of sensitive texts… , as if it is too gruesome to be seen and refuses to be seen all at once."

Guernica is so famous that its copies or iterations even have their own exhibition featuring new artists' interpretations of the original work in different mediums. This exhibition titled "Guernica Remastered" was held at the Remai Modern Museum in Saskatoon, Canada, and  features work by Hannah and Longo and many others all inspired to emulate the original masterpiece.

This is an image on flickr of a version of Guernica in tile, possibly local street art to decorate the city and promote art and culture. Does street art increase the value of the painting through public education or does it lower its artistic value. What do you think?

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This special version of Guernica depicts the tragedy of a community destroyed by HIV/AIDS. It is a handmade tapestry with embroidery and applique techniques. The materials are so interesting; the brown are the blankets of the patients in the Keiskamma treatment center and the felt skirts of the local Xhosa women of South Africa. The pieces is the same size as the original Guernica. Designed by Carol Hofmeyr, it is made with the help of Hamburg Women's Co-operative.The dynamic work was displayed at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012. 


For those of you that have studied American history, this masterpiece titled "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze is definitely familiar. Leutze is a German American history painter very famous in the mid 1800s. It captures a magnificent image of December 25, 1776 when Washington led the troops across the Delaware to defeat the Hessian soldiers at the Battle of Trenton. This was a critical turning point in the Revolutionary War and gave the Patriots a new spark of hope. Leutze was a loyal abolitionist, and the piece also became an icon for the Civil War as it reminded the fractured Americans of a time of unity and its founding principles.  


Artsy editor Isaac Kaplan explains the many historical accuracies and inaccuracies for this influential masterpiece.  So, there is a list of the factual mistakes and why.


1) Washington standing - The most obvious is Washington standing in the row boat. He should be standing, as should everyone since frigid water would be at the bottom of the boat, but his precarious pose is absolutely wrong.

2) Washington's appearance - During this battle, he was a healthy 44 years old, not the aging man in the painting.

3) The lighting - The event actually happened under the cover of night, not at dawn. This was probably a purposeful mistake to capture the glorious lighting of dawn on the flag. 

4) The flag - The version of the flag in use was not the right one in 1776.

5) The river - The real river was only a few hundred meters, not as wide and daunting as the picture portrays.

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Interestingly, Leutze did model the men on the boat with real Americans that he found in Europe. He included a variety of different characters, including two officers, an African American, a Scottish American, two farmers in coon hats or wide brimmed hats, and even a Native American. This was a deliberate attempt to showcase America's diversity and how the war was an inclusive event.

As with all great paintings, it inspires the next generation of artists, and one of the most significant reiterations is by 20th century artist Robert Colescott titled "George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware - Page from an American History Textbook". Instead of George Washington, the hero is George Washington Carver, the American southern agronomist (study of agriculture) responsible for introducing peanuts to Alabama and ending the former slave state's dependency on cotton.  

The painting uses a cartoon, satirical style (intentionally mocking) that uses bold, black generic characters in low-class roles to bring attention to racism, discrimination, and social structural divides that exist in the United States. 

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Charlotte Corday was a minor French aristocrat in the late1700s, who played a key role in the French Revolution.  She became an Enlightenment follower and Royalist sympathizer, who wanted moderate change by advocating Constitutional government (Girondists).


Jean-Paul Marat, on the other hand, was a fierce radical activist and head of the Jacobins party. Trained as a scientist and doctor, he became a journalist and founder of the L'Ami du peuple (“The People's Friend”). The publication often condemned Girondists. Corday believed that Marat

was responsible for the September Massacre of 1792 and thus an enemy of France. She gained permission to his home by saying she would betray the Girondists and provide secret information. Meanwhile, he was working in his bath because of a chronic skin disease. She pulls a knife from her dress's bodice and stabs him in the chest. He dies, but she didn't run away, waiting calmly for the police and was executed by the guillotine 4 days later.  She did not feel sorry for her crimes, claiming she had "killed one man to save a hundred thousand."

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French painter Jacques-Louis David pioneered the genre neoclassical, which showed a revival of classical art but with new scenes and storylines. His painting 'Death of Marat' is considered one of his most renowned works. The painting finished within a year of the actual event and Marat was a friend of David's. He was the first person to paint his event, which has since inspired many other artists to take a stab at it too. (haha.)  The painting (left) features balanced proportions and lighting that captures Marat's last moments with pen in hand writing down the names.  Notably absent is Charlotte Corday. Is her absence implying ,"she is hiding from her crime?" The blood drops are well-placed, and his skin does not reveal his skin disease. According to MyModernMet, "Along with Marat's Pietà-like positioning, this strategic decision depicts Marat as a flawless martyr." - a person killed for their beliefs.

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This is one of the more popular renditions of the famous scene from another angle and in a less biased view. Painted in 1860, nearly 70 years since the actual event, it turns the camera to Charlotte standing innocently in front of a map of France. She could represent a victim of the French Revolution or a foolish young woman. The painting pays homage to Jacques-Louis David's work with the same wooden table and green towel. The blood is less highlighted, and the knife is now more accurate. According to the police report, the knife was black. 

The artist Baudry was known to be a loyal neoclassical painter who re-painted many works by masters, such as Michelangelo and Raphael.

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While David's original version characterizes Corday as a killer, Aliparandi's version seem to paint a different picture with Corday as a heroine. According to the article,  "In French depictions, Marat was portrayed as a martyr, a modern-day Brutus who helped slay the King. However, in England, and for counter-revolutionaries, Charlotte Corday became the modern-day Brutus, having assassinated a blood-thirsty despot." The method of engraving and coloring was more complex, and the intended audience was more sophisticated based on the bilingual message at the bottom.

But, where is the bathtub? What about historical accuracy? Well, the engraving was done only 8 months after the original event, thus, the details may not have made its way to England. By showing Corday stabbing Marat in a chaise longue, it shows her virtue against a symbol of seduction. This makes us wonder, with modern technology and instantaneous information, are inaccuracies less tolerated? Do artists now have less poetic license? What is the purpose of art compared to photography?

Jean-Joseph Weerts is a French academic painter, and his iteration of the "Assassination of Marat" painted in 1880 displays a flair for drama, like a modern musical or opéra comique. Corday is a caught red handed with the knife and a group of furious revolutionaries are arresting her. It shows how this event was a spark in the revolution after nearly a century. This version also does not reference David's original interpretation with the green towel and desk. 


Gavin Turk is a contemporary British artist and in the 1990s, he became a part of a generation called Young British Artists. He has an interesting approach towards art and one of his well-known wax sculpture series is of himself posing as historical figures in art, like the one on the right of him acting out Marat. His work turns previously 2D images into 3D sculptures, giving us a fresh perspective.

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The foremost artist or master for wax figures is undoubtedly Madame Tussaud, who worked for the French royal family (killed in the revolution). Tussaud gained the support of the revolutionaries by creating wax replicas of the severed (guillotined) heads of her former royal employers.

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