Judith Beheading Holofernes

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, circa 1614–20. Oil on canvas, National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–circa 1656) was the first female painter to be accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence. She was a very popular painter in her lifetime, despite the fact that she suffered ridicule as a woman artist. She is now considered among the most accomplished painters of her time. Many of her works portray women’s strength of character and resolve in times of crisis. This painting depicts a particularly gruesome scene, as Judith, with glowing skin, beautiful clothes and jewels, and a look of calm resolve in her face, gruesomely cuts through the neck of the Babylonian general Holofernes, whose blood spurts in all directions. Gentileschi celebrates the strength and beauty of the heroine Judith with soft but direct light. But she also shows the brutality of the act by surrounding Judith and her maid with deeply dark shadows.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes. Oil on canvas, circa 1614–1620.

A general of Nebuchadnezzar who attacked Israel, according to the Book of Judith, but was ultimately beheaded by Judith.

Of or relating to ancient lower Mesopotamia and its empire centered in Babylon.

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