|Judith Slaying Holofernes|
Artemisia Gentileschi, 1620
The story of Judith was a favorite of Artemisia Gentileschi who painted the subject twice. She was intrigued by the idea of a powerful woman. The first version, painted in Naples, is an excellent painting. However, her 1620 version, painted in Florence, is a superior work. Artemisia portrayed Judith in her trademark Artemisia gold—a symbol of strength. The strength of the women seems to reflect Artemisia’s personal fortitude.
Indicative of her quest for realism, Judith shows the veins and muscles of the dying man as he struggles—his legs tangled in his blood-red bed clothes—against the sword at his throat. Blood spurts from his wound onto the two women. Judith’s determination is readily apparent in her face and the tension in her arms as she wields the heavy sword is palpable.
This work is indicative of the power of Artemisia’s painting. Seeing this scene makes her historic induction as the first woman in the Academia seem very fitting indeed. Her talent knew no gender.