judith holofernes ringling
Judith with the Head of Holofernes 1596 Oil on canvas, 120 x 94 cm Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
Her servant urges her in the background to hurry. Protecting her in the moment of shock and astonishment. Life so quick and unintentional. The dragon has been slain, and the victor relinquished from its wrath. What will now come of the murder? Will her conscious, as well as that of her helper, be able to keep such a secret?
An enthralling and captivating painting at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art concerns itself with one of art’s famous subjects in the most striking of ways.
PAINTER AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT:
- Francesco del Cairo was born in 1607 in Milan where he painted his earliest works. Many of the artists active in Milan at that time created eerie, macabre works with subjects involving sex and violence.
- In 1633 he was called to Turin to become court painter to the powerful Duke of Savoy. This is the beginning of a life long association with the House of Savoy, which brought del Cairo an extensive reputation as well as great social and financial rewards. Some authorities believe del Cairo may have left Milan for Turin to escape a charge of murder, although this is not a universally accepted opinion.
- Title: Judith with the Head of Holofernes.
- Judith was a young Jewish widow who saved her village from the Assyrians. She dressed in her finest robes and approached the enemy camp as a defector. Having retired to the tent of the Assyrian general, she proceeded to get him drunk and to cut off his head with his own sword.
- The moment captured by the artist shows Judith confronting the viewer with the proof of her extraordinary act, as her maid is about to place the head in a sack so she and Judith can slip back to their village with their tale of conquest.
Narrowing the exhibition’s focus to the two women allowed Libby to compare and contrast.
Two women of the Bible — Judith and Salome — were popular subjects for 16th- and 17th-century artists. Their gruesome stories of beheading powerful men made for lurid reading in the Bible and lurid viewing on the canvas.
The exhibition includes works from the 15th through 18th centuries, chronicling 400 years of artistic development.
The painting illustrates the moment St. Francis (1181-1226), founder of the Franciscan order of monks, saw a vision of a crucified seraph, who has imprinted on his body the stigmata — the wounds of Christ at his crucifixion.