The ARTistry of ARTemisia.....
Judith and her Maidservant  

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Judith and Her Maidservant Florence, Palazzo Pitti, c. 1613-14

Soon after her first version of Judith beheading Holofernes, in 1614, Artemisia painted her initial rendition of Judith and Her Maidservant. This dramatic painting portrays a few moments after Judith has beheaded Holofernes, and stuffed his head into a basket. This remarkable painting is notable not only for its harmonious use of color, but also for the contrasting dramatic tension of a moment frozen in time, as Judith and Arba respond to the threat of a sound as they prepare to escape the camp. Like actors in the theater, focused outward on the "action in the wings," the two appear united in both their strength and their fear as they face the task of evading detection. A closeup of the painting reveals that upon Judith's sword is the image of a gorgon, symbol of the monstrous power of the violated feminine.

Approximately eleven years later, in 1625, Artemisia completed her second version of Judith and Her Maidservant,  a deeply shadowed painting with stark contrast between light and dark augmenting the psychological tension of the scene. Here, Judith at the top of the candlelit scene, is half hidden in dark dramatic shadow. Her face also contributes to the contrast and ominous atmosphere -  the sensual softness of her cheeks combined with cool almost indifferent gaze and  sneering expression. Here too, Artemisia realistically portrays human beings in dramatic moments, capturing consider detail in their figures, expressions and clothing.  This Judith appears older, more experienced and resigned to the harshness of life than the Judith in the 1614 painting.


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Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes
circa 1625,  detail, Detroit, Institute of Arts
see also:

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Here also, Judith's maidservant Abra appears lighter and more innocent  than the darker Judith. According to Rebecca Corbell and Samantha Guy, "The contrast in the Detroit painting between Judith and Abra poignantly suggests the distinction in two major phases of Artemisia's own life thus far: between her present self, toughened by experience in the decade or more since the rape, and the sexually innocent, perhaps idealistic young girl she may have been before the rape."

LINKS: Paintings by Artemisia

On Paintings by Artemisia

Paintings of Judith

Paintings of Other Female Heroines

Other Paintings by Artemisia

Other Baroque Painting sites

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not be used without permission. The content of this web site is copyright 1999 by Tracy Marks.

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