Friday, August 26, 2011

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio

Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio, Oil on Canvas, 1598/99, National Gallery of Ancient Art of Barberini Palace, Rome, Italy
In honor of women in America having Congress finally pass our rights to vote on this day in 1920 thereby 'validating' what we already knew - we are powerful, smart, ingenious, fiercely loyal, fight for our cause, and protect our own I am putting up Judith.  Judith has an entire book in the bible devoted to her as she empowered the whole of Israel to defeat their enemy who even with superior numbers had their commander beheaded by the cunning and determination of one determined woman.  In his desire to have Judith, Holofernes underestimates her abilities and literally and figuratively loses his head.

Caravaggio paints Holofernes with a red drapery tauntingly over his head much like would be over royalty in an Academic painting echoing the red which soon escapes the neck of Holofernes.  Caravaggio never disappoints in his use of realism and naturalism. The dead eyes of Holofernes while his hands are still at their last grasping moment on the sheets, his agape mouth as if in mid-scream,  his taunt muscles about to succumb to death juxtaposed to the white purity of Judith's sheer blouse revealing her femininity (it actually used to reveal a breast but was covered up some time later by others) eluding to her use of sexual wiles to seduce the commander in a necessary evil for her family and her people.  Judith's facial expressions clearly echo the sentiment of distain, anger, and determination in her act while her maid's natural depiction of age and resolve bring yet another realistic element to this painting.

Caravaggio's interplay of angles and triangles created connections between individuals in the frame, further drama beyond the story and discord to the viewer's eye.  Chiaroscuro may not have been the invention of Caravaggio, but he certainly was in my opinion the master and this painting in print and in person confirms that fact.  If you have not seen Caravaggio's work in person it is a must because the subtleties, the nuances, the intricacies will astound even the mildest of art connoisseur....

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!  ~Maya Angelou

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