“The Sun Amidst Small Stars” – the celestial appellation given by contemporaries to Tiziano Vecelli, better known as Titian. This portrayal of Judith is a product of his later life, which was characterized by loose brushwork and polychromatic shades “without precedent in the history of Western art.”
Judith is herself the source of light in this painting. Her features are finely and delicately rendered. Her expression is enigmatic – like Mona Lisa, Her smile is ambiguous and mysterious. Around her, the two other characters in this story are crudely portrayed. The maid is tucked into the corner, small and dark, almost obscured. And the features of Holofernes head are coarse and dark as it is dropped into the waiting bag.
Vasari wrote of Titian’s late works that they `are executed with bold, sweeping strokes, and in patches of color, with the result that they cannot be viewed from near by, but appear perfect at a distance… The method he used is judicious, beautiful, and astonishing, for it makes pictures appear alive and painted with great art, but it conceals the labor that has gone into them.’ (1) His meditative spirit was reflected in the tones of autumn.
Even until the last, he remained as bright as The Sun, eclipsing those in his orbit.
(1) Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 1550, 2nd ed., 1568