Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Judith and Holofernes

I am a huge fan of Caravaggio because of his frozen, theatrical, dramatic lighting and shallow space. He doesn't beat around the bush concerning what he wants be to look for, pay attention to immediately. I appreciate that. I was not familiar with this story from the Book of Judith, from the apocrypha, part of the Bible's old testament that was eliminated, thus not in the current version. It's about the delivery of Israel from the Assyrian General Holofernes. In the scene, Judith and her maidservant behead him after he passes out asleep due to drunkenness. It is extremely violent and gory. This depiction led me to look into other depictions of the same story...

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio 1598-99 Oil on Canvas
 

Judith and Holofernes by Valentin de Boulogne 1626 Oil on Canvas
This painting, created about 30 years later, is much more static and calm to me. The sword plays a prominent role, but the blood is not as prevalent, colorful, or spurting.


Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi 1611-12 Oil on Canvas

This painting is much more interesting to me, considering the back story. Painted only a dozen years after Caravaggio's, it turns out Artemisia's famous painter father was a follower of Caravaggio. Artemisia was raped by her own painter mentor, and it went to trial. She lost, of course. It was the 17th century. But she continued painting. She placed herself as Judith, and she is above and not beside Holofernes, dominating him physically as perhaps her rapist dominated her. The maidservant is more involved, as if she stands for all women who are enraged by their friend's victimization. Gentileschi's biographer said the depiction was  "a cathartic expression of the artist's private, and perhaps repressed, rage." 

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