While I find the other Judith’s in this gallery to be comical (can you tell?), I have a different feeling about the Judith from Ponce. Yes, she is wearing necklaces like a Padaung woman. Yes, her shoulders and neck have a Mannerist-look. Yes, she is lavishly dressed in brocade and velvet while holding a severed head. But her face – her inscrutable face! She could have been Mona Lisa with that face. Every time I look at her face, the expression changes.
And I am not alone. Paul McCain explains his experience with this painting:
In my opinion, by far, the one held by the museum in Puerto Rico is the best of any I’ve seen. I was able nearly literally to put my nose on the painting as I inspected it closely. It is quite a striking juxtaposition between the gory decapitated head and the tranquil young woman holding the sword. What is particularly unique about this painting is that, unlike most of the other paintings of this scene by Cranach, in this one Judith is staring directly at you. (1)
I also notice she has a tiny bit of blood still clinging to the sword. Just enough to remind you she is lethal.
The second painting today is also a departure. Painted around the same time in 1537. Rather than a portrait, this is an action shot and includes another character: Judith and the maid bagging the head. I searched but found no commentary. Perhaps the composition is too dissimilar form other Cranach’s. Perhaps the composition is too similar to all the other paintings of Judith. Perhaps all the commentators are tired.
But I will remark on the maid, because she appears unusually happy in this scene. Either she is getting a big raise after this episode OR she has a thang for disembodied heads.
(1) Paul T. Cain, “Cranach in Nashville, Tennessee,” Cyberbrethren.com, 20 March 2010