Judith and the Head of Holofernes is an oil painting by Gustav Klimt, created in 1901. It features the biblical figure Judith, who had beheaded the Assyrian general Holofernes, holding up his severed head. Klimt portrays Judith as a seductive femme fatale with a knowing smile on her face.
Klimt’s painting follows a long tradition of depicting Judith in art, typically as a heroic figure who vanquished evil. However, Klimt’s portrayal was controversial due to its eroticism and symbolism. The artwork’s coloring system and composition illustrate the military influence of Judith’s gown and depict her posture that symbolizes triumph over vice.
The Viennese bourgeoisie bought “Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” which eventually found its way to Belvedere Palace gallery in Austria after changing hands several times. Gustav Klimt was born into a lower-middle-class family where he financially supported his parents throughout his life while pushing for artistic experimentation that included sexual themes during what became known as his “golden period.”