Judith changes perspective

14 Aug

It starts as a close-up …

Paolo Veronese, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1580, Oil on canvas, 111 x 100.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Then pans out to show the full-length figures …

Paolo Veronese, “Judith and Holofernes,” 1582-1585, Oil on canvas, 195 x 176 cm, Musei di Strada Nuova-Palazzo Rosso, Genoa, Italy

And finally includes the entire scene of the carnage …

Paolo Veronese, “Judith,” c.1581, Oil on canvas,41.5 x 37.5 cm, Musee de Caen, Caen, France

I do wonder what Paolo Veronese was trying to accomplish.

Paolo Veronese (aka Paolo Caliari) was a follower of Titan and a contemporary of Tintoretto in Venice.   His specialty was painting enormous pageant-like scenes that reflect the wealth of Venice in its Golden Age – such as The Marriage at Cana and The Feast in the House of Levi.    His depictions of Judith are not the most popular examples of his work, but they still retain the color and vibrancy of his more elaborate feast-scenes.

These three pieces have much in common despite the changing perspective.   Judith, the maid and Holofernes’ head are essentially in the same relation to each other in all three.  Of course, Holofernes is not going anywhere at this point. Judith sits on the edge of the bed, holding the severed head to her right and leaning toward the body.  Her head turns slightly over her left shoulder, toward the maid.   The maid is in the foreground, facing Judith and in profile to the viewer.   She seems to be in communication with Judith, maybe listening to a request or making a suggestion as she gestures with her hands.

What changes?  The color – from predominantly blue and green, to green and gold, to gold and red.   Judith is sumptuously dressed in all three, but shows more skin in each progression.   The maid transitions from a humble headscarf to an elaborate coif and glowing gown. and just as there are subtle increases in opulence with each version.  The grisly depiction of the severed head increases as well – with more blood as the scene spreads out.

Out of the three, the second has the most appeal for me.    Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ porridge, the first somewhat lacks the context and richness of the others and the third lacks the emotional connection to the characters.   The second strikes a balance of composition that conveys the beauty of Judith and her maid with their emotional involvement in the action.    I especially like the portrayal of the maid in exquisite pink against her rich, dark, muscled skin.   She is exotic and strong and active – perhaps not the intended focal point at the time, but attractive across the years as we change perspectives on women and race.

Oh clever me. This post really IS about changing perspective.


Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Gory


Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Judith changes perspective

  1. Morfio

    March 24, 2012 at 10:31 am

    another version of Veronese’s painting here 😉

    • judith2you

      March 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Sincere thank you for pointing me in that direction! I have that one “in the till” – not sure why it was disconnected from the others.

      Hope you enjoy the ongoing gallery. Judith


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