judith slaying holofernes
Judith Beheading Holofernes is a painting of the biblical episode by Caravaggio, painted in c. 1598–1599 or 1602 .  The widow Judith first charms the Syrian general Holofernes, then decapitates him in his tent. The painting was rediscovered in 1950 and is part of the collection of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome. The recent exhibition ‘Dentro Caravaggio’ Palazzo Reale, Milan (Sept 2017-Jan 2018), suggests a date of 1602 on account of the use of light underlying sketches not seen in Caravaggio’s early work but characteristic of his later works. The exhibition catalogue (Skira, 2018, p88) also cites biographer artist Giovanni Baglione’s account that the work was commissioned by Genoa banker Ottavio Costa.
The deuterocanonical Book of Judith tells how Judith served her people by seducing and pleasuring Holofernes, the Syrian General. Judith gets Holofernes drunk, then seizes her sword and slays him: “Approaching to his bed, she took hold of the hair of his head” ( Judith 13:7–8 ).
Judith Slaying Holofernes is a painting by the Italian early Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, completed in 1612-13 and now at the Museo Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.  It is considered one of her iconic works. The canvas shows the scene of Judith beheading Holofernes. Early feminist critics interpreted the painting as a form of visual revenge following Gentileschi’s rape by Agostino Tassi in 1611; more recent analysis of the painting has taken a broader view, seeing the painting in the context of Gentileschi’s achievement in portraying strong women.  The subject takes an episode from the apocryphal Book of Judith in the Old Testament, which recounts the assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes by the Israelite heroine Judith. The painting shows the moment when Judith, helped by her maidservant Abra, beheads the general after he has fallen asleep drunk.
Judith Slaying Holofernes has been considered to be related to the Power of Woman theme. Historian Susan L. Smith defines the “power of woman” as “the representational practice of bringing together at least two, but usually more, well-known figures from the Bible, ancient history or romance to exemplify a cluster of interrelated themes that include the wiles of woman, the power of love and the trials of marriage.  Gentileschi plays into the “wiles of woman” in her painting by literally portraying Judith at the man point of her domination of over a man. Judith is shown as a beautiful woman which enticed Holofernes and also as a fierce heroine.
Artists have mainly chosen one of two possible scenes (with or without the servant): the decapitation, with Holofernes supine on the bed, or the heroine holding or carrying the head, often assisted by her maid.
Modern paintings of the scene often cast Judith nude, as was signalled already by Klimt. Franz Stuck’s 1928 Judith has “the deliverer of her people” standing naked and holding a sword besides the couch on which Holofernes, half-covered by blue sheets  —where the text portrays her as god-fearing and chaste, “Franz von Stuck’s Judith becomes, in dazzling nudity, the epitome of depraved seduction.” 
Throughout her career, Artemisia Gentileschi was focused on painting tormented, yet strong women associated with allegories, myths, and Biblical narratives. She showed an astounding skill for depicting female features (whether nudes or fully clothed figures), handling color, and building depth.
Finally, it is evident why Judith Slaying Holofernes is such an iconic painting and a symbol of women’s emancipation. It may be regarded as well the same in the contemporary moment in the context of the MeToo movement and the growing debate concerning gender equality.