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Judith and Holofernes

The story of Judith and Holofernes—taken from the apocryphal Book of Judith—is the subject of this work. When the Assyrians besieged her city of Bethulia, Judith used her seductive powers to gain entry to the tent of the Assyrian general, Holofernes, and subsequently beheaded him. Gramatica’s interpretation of the story utilizes the dramatic lighting he adopted from fellow Roman painter Caravaggio, yet Gramatica treated the image in a much more restrained manner than Caravaggio (who confronted the viewer with a close-up and bloody depiction of Judith in the very act of beheading Holofernes). Gramatica downplays the violence, showing Judith and her maid leaving Holofernes’ tent, his head discreetly hidden in the maid’s skirt.

Antiveduto Gramatica
Italian, 1571–1626
Judith and Holofernes
ca. 1625
Oil on canvas
30 5/8 x 35 in. (77.8 x 88.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds from Robert and Sara LeBien, the Elisabeth P. Myers Art Acquisition Fund, and the estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, 2003.148