The Many Depictions of Judith

The Book of Judith is a biblical story that tells of a Simeonite widow named Judith who seduces and beheads an enemy general, Holofernes, who tried to take control of Israel. From innocent, to violent, to seductress, Judith has been depicted differently by many artists in a interesting pattern throughout history. 

Many early depictions of Judith attempt to portray her as a more innocent character. In this work by Paolo Veronese, light colors are used to place emphasis on Judith, while Holofernes's body and head are painted with duller colors that blend with the rest of the painting.
Like the painting by Veronese, Judith is emphasized by lighter colors, while Holofernes's head blends with the darkness of the painting. However, she is holding the weapon that is almost out of view with a proud expression to preserve innocence yet hint violence.
Around the 17th century, Judith started to be portrayed more violently than earlier works. In Ruben's work, Judith is in the act of killing the general. This is interesting because most depictions of Judith take place after the beheading.
Another work where Judith is actively killing Holofernes. The painting seems less violent than the previous work that has Judith swinging down her sword; however, the colors and lighting used by Trophime Bigot makes the scene darker and more quiet combined with the facial expressions of the characters that makes the painting more morbid.
This painting interestingly deviants from the pattern of depiction by portraying Judith contemplating or looking to God for guidance as she is about to behead the general. It is one of very few depictions that features neither Holofernes or her maid.
One of the more well-known depictions of Judith, Artemisia Gentileschi portrays Judith in the act of killing Holofernes, following the pattern of a more violent depiction. The light characters against the dark background places emphasize on the bloody murder. It is hard to say if Judith is trying to avoid the blood or if the artist is trying to remove Judith from the violence.
Here, Judith is again portrayed after the beheading but holding the head by the hair. The model for Judith was Allori's former mistress a possible hint to Judith having seduced Holofernes to get close enough to kill him while an allegory for Allori's affair.
Later depictions of Judith begin to portray her more of a seductress. In this painting, Judith is pulling up her sleeves, possibly getting dressed, while Holofernes has his arm around her.
A more recent depiction, Judith II (Salome) by Klimt has Judith carrying Holofernes's head in a sack. Judith is a bit sexualized here with her robe at her shoulders, exposing her breast. Salome in the title is a nod to the biblical story of the daughter of Herodias, who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.
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