Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes

Trophime Bigotca. 1640 (Baroque)

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, United States

According to the Book of Judith in the Catholic Old Testament, the virtuous widow Judith saved her people when the military commanders failed to lift a siege by the Assyrians. She beguiled the enemy General Holofernes into getting drunk and cut off his head. The artist heightened the drama by contrasting Judith's serene determination with the amazement and horror exploding from the general's face. Portraying his head upside down emphasizes Holofernes' defeat and evokes the reversal of societal norms in a woman's victory over a strong man. By the 1620s, Trophime Bigot (ca. 1579-1650, also known as Master of the Candlelight) was in Rome, where he studied the paintings of Caravaggio (1571-1610). The Italian master had introduced often brutal, naturalistic, close-up scenes lit by a single light source. In this powerful baroque composition, the candle's light concentrates the drama around the clear diagonal movement back from Holofernes's straining arm.


  • Title: Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes
  • Creator Nationality: French
  • Date Created: ca. 1640 (Baroque)
  • Physical Dimensions: w196.8 x h125.7 cm
  • Type: oil paintings
  • Rights: Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  • External Link: The Walters Art Museum
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • Provenance: Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
  • Place of Origin: Rome, Italy
  • ExhibitionHistory: Going for Baroque. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1995-1996; Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001; Vive la France! French Treasures from the Middle Ages to Monet. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1999-2000
  • Artist: Trophime Bigot

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