Lovis Corinth combined naturalism with expressive evocations of a romanticized Orient in this lavishly illustrated version of the Book of Judith from the Bible. His twenty-two color lithographs, which included eight full-page dramatic plates as well as playful vignettes and ornamental initials, highlight pivotal scenes from Martin Luther’s translation of the story. In this interpretation, Judith, a chaste widow, saves her people by beheading the sleeping Holofernes, whose army has besieged her city, Bethulia. Corinth’s sensuous use of color heightens the narrative’s emotional power and theatricality. In the key scene, Corinth places Judith, blade raised above Holofernes, in front of a blood-red curtain. In an illustration titled Victory Dance, a red-headed woman leads a group of revelers in ecstatic celebration of the freedom gained through Judith’s bloody act. The story was enormously popular in Germany in the early twentieth century as a symbol of female heroism but also, more darkly, as an allegory of the dangers of female empowerment.
Das Buch Judith was the first of two works Corinth published with Paul Cassirer’s Pan-Presse in Berlin, which produced exquisitely designed handmade books as part of the broader movement in the early twentieth century to raise the quality and artistry of everyday objects.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.