Artemisia Gentileschi 1593 – 1656

Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (Naples)

oil on canvas (272 × 221 cm) — 1645-1650 Museum Museo di Capodimonte, Naples

Artemisia Gentileschi biography

This work is linked to Judith 13:9

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Judith has just cut off the head of the Assyrian warlord Holofernes with a sword. Here her maid wraps it in a cloth, while Judith stands guard with sword in hand.

The work is a textbook example of using chiaroscuro to achieve a dramatic effect. A single light source, here the candle, illuminates only the relevant parts of the scene.

The composition of this painting is identical to that of the version Gentileschi created about twenty years earlier. That canvas now hangs in Detroit. Gentileschi also painted the beheading itself several times, and a scene that took place immediately after the scene of this work.

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