I don’t recall anything in the story about Judith escaping back to Bethulia with Holofernes’ head in a boat. But …
… this depiction puts things in a different light.
Obviously a terrifying light for most men, according to the fascinating Jungian analysis by South African professor of Religion and Theology at University of Kwazulu-Natal –
“Usually, the negative anima is depicted in the form of the femme fatale and finds expression in many of the paintings … for example those of Gustav Klimt, Massys, Von Stuck and Metsys. However, none of these images express the fear of the woman’s castrating sexual potential quite as well as Irene Caesar’s 1996 inkdrawing.
It is because Judith ‘usurps’ the male role and so the male authority and prescription of what woman should be that she is both saint and murdering seductress, chaste, spiritual and carnal. It is also for this reason that she poses such a great threat to the male psyche, which baulks at the thought of a woman so powerful that she can easily beguile a powerful general and cut off his head. The head, being symbolic of the penal head, then conjures up images of the dreaded castration and concomitant loss of power, life and vitality. This element is clearly depicted in Irene Caesar’s drawing to which I referred earlier. The woman kills the man with her overpowering sexuality – note how the woman’s legs and hair surround the man in vulva formation – thus castrating him and subverting his authority, for it is she who is in control, not he” (1)
Castrating female: isn’t that the reason I started this blog in the first place?
(1) Helen Efthimiadis-Keith, Text and interpretation: Gender and violence in the Book of Judith, Scholarly Commentary and the Visual Arts from the Renaissance Onward, SA ePublications – Old Testament Essays 15, no.1, 2002