Judith and Holofernes (c. 1495) by Andrea Mantegna

Judith and Holofernes - Andrea Mantegna - 1495 - 1500

Artwork Information

TitleJudith and Holofernes
ArtistAndrea Mantegna
Date1495 - 1500
MediumTempera on wood
Dimensions11 7/8 x 7 1/8 in. (30 x 18 cm)
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

About Judith and Holofernes

The artwork titled “Judith and Holofernes” is a creation of Andrea Mantegna, dating back to the period between 1495 and 1500. This tempera on wood piece is categorized within the High Renaissance art movement and reflects a religious theme. It can be found in the National Gallery of Art, located in Washington, D.C. The painting’s dimensions are 11 7/8 x 7 1/8 inches (30 x 18 cm), and it presents a narrative deeply rooted in biblical tradition.

The artwork depicts the scene from the biblical story of Judith, a courageous and resolute woman who, according to the Book of Judith in the Apocrypha, beheaded the Assyrian general Holofernes in order to save her besieged city. The central figures are Judith, standing with poise and composure, bearing a sword, and her maidservant, who assists her by holding a bag containing the head of Holofernes. Judith is portrayed in a classical manner, wearing a draped garment that accentuates her form and strength, with her gaze directed away from the severed head, perhaps signifying her detached resolve or the magnitude of her deed.

The background, partially obscured by a fluttering drapery, hints at the interior of a tent, which aligns with the narrative since the decapitation took place within Holofernes’s own quarters. The technical mastery of this work lies in the intricate details and the use of chiaroscuro, a technique that employs sharp contrasts between light and dark, adding a dramatic intensity to the scene. Mantegna’s depiction of this event exhales a sense of virtuous triumph combined with a subtle commentary on the nature of power and justice.

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