Judith beheading Holofernes – Caravaggio

Judith…she was a bit of a dude wasn’t she.  Sexy seductress, murdering temptress and victorious saviour.   Caravaggio captures all of this in his picture, selecting the defining moment of Judith to portray.  Painted in 1599 this work has been talked about as a masterpiece within a masterpiece, but let’s look at what is going on before I move in to the actual painting itself.

The story is told in the bible (the deuterocanonical book of Judith) and details when King Nebuchadnezzar sent his general Holofernes to subdue his “enemies” the Jews.  Travelling to Bethulia, Holofernes and his men lay siege on the Jewish community, who have no chance of defeating the army, lose hope of a victory.  As encampments around Bethulia stop any trade of food and goods famine starts to set in and undermines the Jewish potential victory further, and considerations are taken around surrender.   Step forth Judith in to the arena.  Stunningly beautiful and wanting to see victory she takes advantage of her status as a widow, and on overhearing the plans to surrender, creeps in to the camp where Holofernes is with her servant.   Judith uses her beauty and grace to charm Holofernes and she is allowed in to his tent, where she proceeds in seducing him and getting him drunk.  Holofernes falls to sleep lay in his bed and Judith takes the opportunity to decapitate him with his own sword.  Taking the head back to Bethulia rendering victory.  Who says good looks won’t get you far in life? 

Caravaggio’s beheading interpretation, bucked the trend of paintings of Judith which had come before, most showing Judith with just the sword and the head after the deed had been done, but in his style he selected the most dramatic moment to show. This painting then inspired many others to paint this scene, some surpassing the overall aesthetics of Caravaggio’s work, but to me none capturing the expressions so well. 

You can see the figure of Judith, with her alabaster skin, and understated dress, her servant by her side ready to catch the head.  The expression on her face a true genius as you can see repulsion, detest and ambivalence towards the act that she is committing.  The servant looking on almost like she is watching Judith peel potatoes.  It’s a scene of an act of doing what has to be done.  Holofernes displays confusion and fear as he tries to call out, but with his throat cut his mastery is useless.  

The setting is almost as though it has been presented on a stage, the lighting coming from the right to highlight the piece perfectly, although this particular work has been critisised for the lack of back ground action, which has been deemed a downfalling in taking the 2D medium and presenting a 3D visual.  Personally I like the darkness in the background, highlighting and focusing the audience on the true drama of the picture. 

X-rays of this picture have shown that Caravaggio moved the head of Holofernes during the paint to detach it from the body more to show the power of Judith over this muscular and dominating man.

So WidowCranky…come on…you said that this was a masterpiece within a masterpiece….so where is it? Look at the servants face… look at the detail in the age of her skin.  The weather beaten brow and worn in worry lines of the forehead.  This is a crowning point in the painting and could have been a masterpiece on its own.

Judith is an on going symbol of triumph over tyranny.  Although we could look at this painting as a depiction of the manipulative ways of women, or the pitfalls of men.  Either way Caravaggio captures the drama, emotion and underlying meaning of the tale perfectly.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Judith beheading Holofernes – Caravaggio

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!

We Each Have A Story To Tell

Zhiguai Translations

Chinese Tales of the Strange and Anomalous, translated (roughly) by Geoff Humble

Anonymole - apocryphal abecedarian

Mental meanderings of a subterranean gadriosopher

Bitchin’ in the Kitchen

..because the thoughts that fall, kicking and screaming from my head need a safe place to land..

MARKOVICH PHOTO ART

MarkovichUniverse AT gmail.com

Finding French Charming

Finding True Love.. Even After Forty

My expressions

unexpressed thoughts

Fang & Saucer

From Stokervania to Austenland - to Infinity and Beyond!

Art & criticism by eric wayne

Art and Criticism by Eric Wayne

Quaint Revival

quirks, quips & photo clicks

It's Turpintime!

Stuff & Bits For The Muddled and Addled.

Scribbles

When the universe hands me a pen and then regrets it

The Artsy Psyche

I speak in colours and metaphors.

Eerie Unsolved

A Mix-Up of Mysteries, Conspiracie and All Things Spooky!

As Lady Stitch

Living with fibromyalgia.

Being Beckyy

We were born to be real, not to be perfect.

The Battles of Frankie

The failings and anecdotes of an average Aussie woman

The Formidable Endeavor

Ph.D. student life

The Indy Diarist

A Day in the Life

Leggings & Tea

Books. Art. Life.

The Non-Alcoholic Student

Ramblings on the University experience from a sober student

High Lumen

lighting design blog

Lady with Black Lipstick

Hopeless romantic speaking her thoughts.

Scandi Lifestyle

A lifestyle blog about all things Scandinavian

james'snotes

This is the page where I will share my thoughts about football, my memories and funny stories.

MYRA'S PANORAMA

A panorama is defined as an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer. My panorama includes a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts waiting to be typed out. Welcome to my panorama.

Marina Baker

marketing, social media, & business development

Chef Dave, Esq.

Lawyer by trade -- Cook by passion

MakeItUltra™

Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

PURPOSE IN THE PROCESS

The Insides

Darkness exists for the light to shine

Diary of a Twenty Something

Finding meaning in the small and mundane...

ANNYWHO.

an online diary of an introvert.

ticktalksite

Tick talk, around the clock. Because Lyme disease never takes a day off.

ScienceSwitch

Curiosity Ends Here

Amdall Gallery

Artwork, data analysis, and other projects by Jon

The Planet According to Dom

Where humour and adventure collide

%d bloggers like this: