Judith and Holofernes

Donatello, Judith and Holofernes, 1455–1460. Bronze, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Donatello (1386–1466) was the foremost sculptor in early Renaissance Florence. In 1455, Cosimo de’ Medici, head of the great Florentine banking family, commissioned Judith and Holofernes as a decoration for the gardens at the Palazzo Medici. The freestanding statue was to accompany an earlier sculpture by Donatello, David, another depiction of the triumph of weak over strong. Intended as a metaphor of Medici rule in Florence, the statue was accompanied by an inscription, “Kingdoms fall through luxury, cities rise through virtues; behold the neck of pride severed by humility.” Judith and Holofernes depicts the moment just before Judith beheads Holofernes. Judith wears a contemplative expression as she stands above the Assyrian leader, brandishing her sword.


Donatello, Judith and Holofernes. Bronze, 1455–1460.

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

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