This flawless painting is clearly out of sequence but … let’s pretend she has already removed his head.
This is a immaculate work of art by Andrea Belloli, anticipating the coming sensuality of Art Nouveau and the Femme Fatale. Rather than blathering on about light and skin and texture and emotion, I will let an expert explain:
Painted at the peak of his fame, Judith features Belloli’s favourite model of the 1870s – a dark haired, sensuous southern beauty who is very familiar from his monumental historical canvases. This painting, executed in 1872, essentially develops the same successfully realised composition of Woman Bathing, his other famous work, only in a historical, “costume” setting. We find Judith in Olofern’s luxurious tent at a moment of heroic resoluteness. Her arm is extended towards a sword, and her gaze, feverish with alarm, is directed towards her enemy who is sleeping on a chest, but the nature of the draping and the “winsome” turn of the figure undoubtedly have their origins in the decorative image of Woman Bathing. In employing these methods, Belloli has also succeeded in his historical canvas in displaying his virtuosic mastery of portrayal of a nude model, and the foremost critic of the 19th century, the formidable V. Stasov, wrote about this, describing the “inimitable portraits portraying pomaded cherubs and perfumed maidens and ladies, which create an effect simply by means of a bare elbow or neck” (1).
No pomaded cherubs here. Just a brave and determined woman with a bare arm extending towards an instrument of death.
(1) Artfact: Andrea Belloli