Judith and the matter of the platter

11 Jan

Uh oh.  One of those paintings.  The ones that could be Salome, that little hussy.

Titian, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” c.1515, oil on canvas, 89 × 73 cm, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome, Italy

You may remember Titian from October 6 – but then again, you probably don’t.   That Judith was painted in 1570, fifty-five years after this Judith.   And that is a lifetime of difference.

From a document dated 1533, it is implied that Titian had produced a Judith for Alfonso i d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.  However, that painting appears to be lost, because in an inventory of the his grand-daughter’s art there was no Judith.  But there was a Salome.   And she has remained Salome until today as she hangs in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.

EXCEPT … contemporary scholars began arguing about the iconology, aka symbols depicted in art and of the meaning contained within the symbols.  Before going all DaVinci Code in this post … let’s not.  And in an abbreviated form, I will simply say:

  • The cupid above Holofernes’ severed head implies that he was undone by affection for Judith – not that the Baptist was undone by affection for Salome.  (if you say so)
  • The young “rather goofy, inelegant girl” on the left is the maid to Judith, not Salome to her mother Herodias.  (now, that is easy to believe)

But to really settle the matter of Judith versus Salome, I found this wonderful interpretation:

claytoncharmed, “Donner Dinnerparty,” 2005,

(1)  Simon P. Oakes, “Judith not Salome,” Apollo, (June 2010)
(2) Paul Joannides, “Titian’s “Judith” and its context: the iconography of decapitation,” Apollo, (March 1992)

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Gory


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