judith and holofernes (donatello)

Judith and holofernes (donatello)
It is believed that an inscription on the granite pedestal originally read, “Kingdoms fall through luxury [sin], cities rise through virtues. Behold the neck of pride severed by the hand of humility.” This dramatic and detailed statue is thus a metaphor of the Medici rule, as the defenders of Florentine liberty, akin to Judith, slayer of the tyrant Holofernes and defender of the people. This view is supported by accounts that mention a second inscription on the pedestal which read, “The salvation of the state. Piero de’ Medici son of Cosimo dedicated this statue of a woman both to liberty and to fortitude, whereby the citizens with unvanquished and constant heart might return to the republic.” Inscribed on the cushion are the words OPVS . DONATELLI . FLO (the work of the Florentine, Donatello).
The anticipated slashing of the general’s neck and overall notion of beheading is emphasized visually in the statue through Judith’s intent gaze and strongly cocked arm wielding her blade ready to strike. In addition, carved into Holofernes’ back, is a medallion structured to appear hanging from his neck has been historically known as a symbol of pride. [5] Many scholars believe that in this instance the necklace is direct symbolism of pride evidenced by Psalms 73:6, which states, “the wicked wear pride like a necklace and violence wraps them round.” [6] It is also argued that the statue is meant to be viewed from the side rather than straight on. By viewing from an angle, the emphasis is on Holofernes’ neck, flanked by both of Judith’s legs underneath her garments, and is the center of attention as Judith pulls her arm back to strike. This would render the inscription “Behold the neck of pride served by the hand of humility” the most accurately depicted. [7]

Judith and holofernes (donatello)
Some artists have explored her overt sexuality while others have focused on the masculine aggressiveness that enabled her to both sneak into the enemy’s camp and decapitate a man.
It depicts Judith, an admirably courageous Jewish woman, cutting off the head of a foreign general who had been ordered to conquer the Jews. She was only a common, simple widow woman, but she defeated a powerful general.

Perhaps most famously was Caravaggio’s Judith beheading Holofernes, though there were also important contributions from the following:
The famous tale features the assassination of Holofernes who was a general in the Assyrian army and is tricked by Judith whom acts to defend her community. The symbolic hanging of his head provides an emotive scene from which most artists can easily find great inspiration.

Judith and holofernes (donatello)
37 Ibid.: Achior, Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassador, explains to Holofernes, ”They have great faith in a God who always defends and protects them, and they give him all their devotion.”
38 Ibid.: Ozias, speaking to Judith, called her ”vedovetta santa,” commended her devout faith that could change God’s severe will, and asked her to pray for the Jews.

Judith and holofernes (donatello)
Donatello’s statue Judith and Holofernes (1457-1464) was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici to decorate the Medici Palace garden, where it was placed alongside Donatello’s bronze David (1440). The placement of the sculptures at the most public spaces of the palace and the center of Florentine’s political power explain their intention and function. Scholars have examined how iconography and composition of Judith and Holofernes relate to the political interests of the Medici family. Cosimo commissioned the sculpture at the time when he was working to overcome factionalism and discord in Florence. In 1433, Cosimo was exiled from Florence by Rinaldo Abizzi, but a year later, he returned and exiled Rinaldo. After his return, and especially throughout the 1450s, Cosimo worked on garnering support and unity among the members of his party.
The inscription on the statue sends a political message: “Kingdoms fall through luxury, cities rise through virtues; behold the neck of pride severed by humility.” As the inscription indicates, the biblical story of Judith is considered to be a battle between pride and humility. Judith is a moral, religious, and political heroine: she embodies how virtues of self-control, chastity, and humility triumph over Holofernes’s promiscuity and pride. Donatello highlights the contrast between virtues and vices in his depiction of the figures: Judith’s demure clothing and a veil covering her from head to toe represent chastity and humility. In contrast, Holofernes’s disheveled and almost naked appearance is associated with lust and pride. Holofernes wears a medallion hanging on his bareback. The medallion depicts a galloping horse, a symbol of pride, the vice traditionally defeated by humility.
Furthermore, the necklace itself can be interpreted as a symbol of pride. For example, in Psalm 73:6, the necklace is associated with pride: “the wicked wear pride like a necklace and violence wraps around them”. The base of the sculpture has three reliefs that portray scenes of drunkenness. These relate to the biblical story: Judith encouraged Holofernes to drink, and after he falls asleep, she cuts his head off. These images serve as a complementary message, explaining the connection between pride and excessive drinking.

References:

http://www.artble.com/artists/donatello/sculpture/judith_and_holofernes
http://www.donatellosculptures.com/judith-and-holofernes/
http://books.openedition.org/obp/1015
http://www.wikiart.org/en/donatello/judith-and-holofernes-1460
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_and_Holofernes_(Donatello)

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