Martin van Heemskerck chose to show the Old Testament heroine Judith at her moment of triumph, holding up the decapitated head of Holofernes, an Assyrian general. The Assyrians had besieged Judith's city, but when the inhabitants were on the point of capitulating, she developed a plan to save them. Dressing herself so as to catch the eye of any man who might see her, Judith entered the enemy camp and quickly entranced the general with her beauty. He invited her to his tent with plans to seduce her, but became too drunk. She was therefore able to grab his sword and sever his head.

The decapitated body of Holofernes, with its gushing wound, lies on a canopied bed in the elaborate tent to the right. Judith herself wears an intricate armored breastplate over her richly embroidered clothes. In the distance, the other Assyrian tents cluster outside the city walls, while the army marches up to the gate.

Van Heemskerck's careful cross-hatching and neat penwork indicate that this was a final version of this drawing. It was then passed to a printmaker to be copied for the engraving of Judith in the series of six prints illustratingGood Women of the Old Testament.


  • Title: Judith (Main View)
  • Creator: Maerten van Heemskerck
  • Date Created: 1560
  • Location Created: Netherlands
  • Physical Dimensions: 19.8 × 25.2 cm (7 13/16 × 9 15/16 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and dark brown and light brown ink over black chalk, incised for transfer
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 91.GG.17
  • Culture: Dutch
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Maerten van Heemskerck (Dutch, 1498 - 1574)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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