Judith and the Other Big One – exhibit A

31 Jul

Now we are getting to one of my favorites.  Artemesia Gentileschi.  She Kicks ass.

Let me say that again.  She.  Kicks.  Ass.

Artemesia Gentileshi, “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” 1613, Capodimonte Museum, Naples, Italy

This is the first of six executions of the Judith story by Artemisia.   She was obviously obsessed with this story, and with good reason: she was raped by her tutor — who was charged and acquitted.   And even without that crime, she functioned in a world of men — long before sexual harassment was considered inappropriate.

Artemesia Gentileshi was the daughter of a famous artist, Orazio Gentileschi.   She began her career at age 17, and her father hired Agostino Tassi to be her tutor 2 years later.   Orazio pressed charges against Tassi after he learned that Tassi raped and continued relations with his daughter with no intention to marriage.   In the 7-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had adultery with his sister-in-law and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings.   During the trial, Artemisia was given a gynecological examination and was tortured using thumbscrews.   Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time.

It is hypothesized that Artemesia’s repeated portrayal of Judith was revenge-therapy for the rape.   This painting was completed during the year of the trial.

What makes this painting kick-ass? Why is this one of my favorites?

  • Judith fully involved in the struggle, as if she is unconcerned with completing the decapitation and getting soiled.   And that is realistic determination.
  • The maid is a similar age and fairly portrayed for a devoted companion in crime.
  • Holofernes horror and his struggle are believable.   With two capable women holding him down, all he can do is lay there and gurgle.
  • And the bloody stream is accurate.  A gush that flows down onto the sheets — not shoots in a linear trajectory from the wound.   (although I have not personally witnessed a slice into the jugular vein so maybe I am wrong about that)
And most importantly, Judith looks so confident and pleased.    Exactly as i would expect her to feel.
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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Gory


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