Life and Art of Artemisia Gentileschi > Judith and her Maidservant > Next Painting

Judith and her Maidservant.

c. 1613-14

Oil on canvas.

1.14m by 0.935m

Palazzo Pitti, Florence

The Painting.

Judith and Abra have just killed Holofernes and are preparing to decamp with their trophy, his head. At a tense moment, they have not yet escaped; they react to a sound off-canvas, perhaps a guard stirring. Many male artists have depicted Judith as standing triumphant with Holofernes's head, but Artemisia chooses to capture the danger and risk.

Judith is a solid, mature woman with an almost goiterous neck, quite unidealised in her looks, but dressed in the clothes of a noblewoman. She is alert to the danger of her mission, but registers caution rather than fear. Compare this to the distressed face of Susanna only three years earlier.

The ornament in her hair (see right) features a picture of a man with a lance and shield, probably David, decapitator of Goliath, the male equivalent of Judith. The image honors one of the landmarks of the Florentine Piazza, Michelangelo's standing statue of David.

Jewel - 2K

The Artist's Life.

Artemisia had just started married life in Florence. Perhaps this painting and those of Judith reflect her attempts to resolve feelings about Tassi. She succeeds at the ultimate revenge by killing the aggressor, but at all times remains in control. The decapitation suggests the symbolic castration of Tassi.

Her Florentine Period, from 1613-1621, was one of the more successful times of her life.

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