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Gustav Klimt: Judith I

Gustav Klimt 1862 – 1918

Judith I

oil on canvas (84 × 42 cm) — 1901 Museum Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna

This work is linked to Judith 13:9

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Dressed in a beautiful gown the widow Judith succeeds in seducing the enemy warlord Holofernes. In his tent she decapitates him.

Klimt emphasized the erotic tension of the moment. His Judith seems to be in ecstasy: eyes half closed, open mouth, her dress in disarray. She is a femme fatale: a dominant woman who uses her beauty in order to humiliate a man.

The artist was obviously fascinated by the subject of Death and Sexuality, or Eros and Thanatos. Many contemporaries, such as Sigmund Freud, shared his interest.

The work is somewhat like a Byzantine icon, with lavish use of gold leaf in the background and on the Jugendstil frame. The frame was made by Gustav's brother Georg.

This is the Vienna version. There is an almost identical version in the Galerie Vytvarneho Umeni, Ostrava, Czech Republic, where the dress is more blue. Eight years on Klimt would make another Judith.

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Title: Gustav Klimt: Judith I
Author / citation: here
First published: 27 September 2005
Last modified: 2 January 2011