News reports about the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee made note of the contrast in tone between the two: she was sober and quiet, and he was tearful and loud. Sexism in politics is also traceable to the art world.

The bitter taking of sides among the Senators on the Judiciary Committee - the Republicans rallying for the judge and the Dems for the doctor – promised to deepen the great divide between the parties and threatened to set the tinderbox that is America on ablaze.

Maybe it's because I'm an art critic by trade that relevant paintings spring to mind like a spontaneous and shifting slide show when momentous events like the Kavanaugh hearing occur. One museum show about violence overlooked rape.

Look back in anger

The first image that suggested itself came when Dr. Ford described the attempted rape and the laughter of her assailants. That's when Emile Nolde's 1931 watercolor “Woman and Beast,” showed itself. What I saw was a grinning lion lying on top of a frightened female, his tail straight up like an erection. It's the grinning that stands out the way the laughter of Dr. Ford's assault stayed so fixedly in her memory. How Nolde understood this particularly female experience is a wonder given all the rape paintings that abound in art history.

Setting the world on fire

The next painting that surfaced was jump-started by Judge Kavanaugh sobbing and screaming with igniting words that blamed the Left, including the Clintons. The sum of all this brought back a painting by Giovanni Bragolin, circa 1950, titled “The Crying Boy.” The image comes with a story that also cues to the judge's testimony.

The story first appeared on Sept. 4, 1985, in England when the British newspaper The Sun reported a series of events under the headline: “Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy Picture.”

Unsolved mystery

According to The Sun, the painting was mass-printed and hung in many homes across the UK, and again and again in each case went up in flames – the houses, not the painting.

A typical case was the first one: owners of a house in South Yorkshire, Ron and May Hall, told The Sun that they lost most of their belongings in the fire, except for the painting which wasn't even blackened by the smoke. And because in all subsequent fires, the “Crying Boy” remained likewise unscathed, it was blamed for the fires.

Turning down the heat

Judge Kavanaugh's tirade against a political party poked the blind eye of justice, as well as shook a fist at the impartiality of the Supreme Court should he be confirmed. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake came to the nation's rescue the day after the hearing by asking that the vote to confirm be delayed for one week to allow the FBI to investigate Dr. Ford's charges. And the fiery flames of rage that threatened to engulf the land got a chance to simmer down.