Judith Beheading Holofernes

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598. Oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy.

Caravaggio (1571–1610) was an Italian Baroque painter active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily. His dark, dramatic style of painting mirrored his rebellious and tempestuous spirit. Despite his early death, Caravaggio was one of the most prolific and influential painters of the period. Judith Beheading Holofernes depicts the biblical episode with great dramatic effect, in part due to Caravaggio’s expert use of chiaroscuro, the contrast between light and dark. Judith and her maid enter from the right, catching a naked Holofernes by surprise. His hand still clutches the bed, even as Judith cuts his throat. Whereas the maid looks utterly menacing, Judith appears forlorn and leans away from Holofernes.

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes. Oil on canvas, circa 1597.

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

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