Judith Slaying Holofernes – Artemesia Gentileschi

Date: c.1620

Location: Galleria del Uffizi – Florence

Style: Early Baroque

Based on an early version of the same painting by Caravaggio (see below) Gentileschi’s version clearly shows the same physicality and violence as Caravaggio’s painting. However, Gentileschi’s depiction of Judith and her accomplice seem somehow more involved in the beheading of Holofernes on account of their facial expressions and the seeming action captured in their poses.

The painting depicts an episode from The Book of Judith in the Old Testament Bible. Holofernes was beheaded by Judith as vengeance for her rape by him. This shocking event must have resonated with Gentileschi as a rape victim herself, it is also believed that Gentileschi saw herself as a proverbial Judith and her biography, Mary Garrard considered that this painting may have been a cathartic process for Artemesia.

There have been many versions of this particular biblical scene by artists such as Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens amongst others. However, to my mind it seems that only Gentileschi’s painting comes close to portraying the emotion and rage exuded from the painting – this is a painting by a women that illustrates the power and active nature of women even in a male dominated world. This is a distinctly feminist depiction of this scene.

Not only does Judith slay but Gentileschi does too!




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