what tragic event caused gentileschi to create judith and the holofernes
Two notable paintings of Judith were made by Gustav Klimt. The story was quite popular with Klimt and his contemporaries, and he painted Judith I in 1901, as a dreamy and sensual woman with open shirt. His Judith II (1909) is “less erotic and more frightening”. The two “suggest ‘a crisis of the male ego’, fears and violent fantasies all entangled with an eroticized death, which women and sexuality aroused in at least some men around the turn of the century.” 
While many of the above paintings resulted from private patronage, important paintings and cycles were made also by church commission and were made to promote a new allegorical reading of the story—that Judith defeats Protestant heresy. This is the period of the Counter-Reformation, and many images (including a fresco cycle in the Lateran Palace commissioned by Pope Sixtus V and designed by Giovanni Guerra and Cesare Nebbia) “proclaim her rhetorical appropriation by the Catholic or Counter-Reformation Church against the ‘heresies’ of Protestantism. Judith saved her people by vanquishing an adversary she described as not just one heathen but ‘all unbelievers’ (Jdt 13:27); she thus stood as an ideal agent of anti-heretical propaganda.” 
The painting was in possession of Prince Brancaccio in 1952, where it was co-owned by Alessandro Morandotti of Rome, Italy, and Adolph Loewi of New York. The whereabouts regarding ownership before this time are unknown. It was then purchased by Leslie H. Green in the same year of 1952 and gifted to the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan. 
The notion of Judith’s attempt at seducing Holofernes was not something the early Christian Church deemed appropriate. Religious interpretations instead relayed that God enhanced her beauty without interfering with her innocence as a woman, which led to the increased imagery that connected her to the Virgin Mary.  In the Middle Ages, Judith was often cast in the same light as the Virgin, comparing their similar triumphs of beheading characters that represented evil—Holofernes and the devil, respectively.  Steering away from an all-encompassing approach to story-telling, Renaissance art marked the beginning of focusing entirely on the suspenseful moments of Judith’s tale, particularly when Holofernes is beheaded.  A prime example of this is Michelangelo’s pendentive of Judith in the Sistine Chapel.  Mythological symbols have been implemented in the decoration of Judith’s armor, referencing the female war/hunting figures of Artemis, Athena and the Amazons. Donatello is most well-known for this application, but the tradition is connected to other artists, like Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Andrea Mantegna, Giorgio Vasari, Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi.  It is speculated by art historian Mary Garrard that Judith served as a righteous symbol from which people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries looked to in religious and political situations. During the Counter-Reformation, Catholics saw Judith’s conquest of Holofernes as their battle and victory over Protestantism, specifically Truth over Heresy. 
This is why Caravaggio’s “innovative view, his light/dark contrast, his sense of struggle, his intense graphic passion, would appeal to her, and be kind of attractive as an art form.”
But the “real struggle is not coming to terms with an injustice that happened to her, because injustices happen to us every single day – that’s not her real struggle. The real struggle that everyone has in that period – and they make that plain to you every minute of every day – is who are you before God and who are you going to be at the last day?”
Artemisia�s Judith paintings have often been interpreted as psychobiography: that she here acts out fantasies of revenge against the man who raped her. Decapitation becomes, in this interpretation, the equivalent of castration. If Artemisia did �include� herself in the image of Judith, this would not have been unusual � numerous other artists began to do this in the Renaissance and Baroque eras (Michelangelo did it in more than one work and so did Caravaggio, as we just saw). But neither in their case nor in hers does that have to be the entire analysis. In Gentileschi’s development, we can look at the paintings for what they tell us about the qualities which distinguish her from the painters who were her teachers, the subjects and fashions desired by her patrons, and the evolution of her style from a more Caravaggiesque style oriented toward narrative drama and intense lighting to a style rooted in a more pictorial and poetic use of color and composition.
In addition to Caravaggio’s influence in terms of tenebrism and the new, unidealized naturalism, we see another theme in his work which characterizes the Baroque era — a transition from the sacred to the secular. It is intriguing that in Caravaggio, this transition occurs within the context of religious paintings, as the religious painting becomes a painting of “street theater.” In other artists, the transition will be manifested more directly in terms of subject matter, narratives, and the eventual replacement of religious narratives with narratives of secular history and contemporary secular life.
Some of Gentileschi’s surviving paintings focus on a female protagonist. The story of Judith appeared a number of times in her art. Around 1611, Gentileschi completed “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” which depicts Judith in the act of saving the Jewish people by killing Assyrian general Holofernes; the painting shows a close-up of this brutal scene—Judith slicing Holofernes’s throat while her handmaiden helps to hold him down. Soon after finishing this work (around 1613), Gentileschi painted “Judith and her Maidservant,” which shows the pair after Holofernes’s death, with the maid holding a basket containing his severed head.
Since she was trained by her father, there has been some debate regarding who actually painted certain earlier pieces by Gentileschi. The work “Madonna and Child” is one such work that has sometimes been attributed to Artemisia, and sometimes to her father. Gentileschi’s first signed and dated painting was “Susanna and the Elders,” completed around 1610. Taken from the Bible, Susanna is a woman tormented by two elders who falsely accused her of adultery after she rejects them; Gentileschi’s work manages to convey this conflict in a vivid, realistic manner.