Judith with the Head of Holofernes
  • Date: c. 1510
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on poplar panel
  • Image size: 86.2 x 47.5 cm
  • Inv: P525
  • Location: Sixteenth Century Gallery
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Further Reading
  • The apocryphal Book of Judith relates how the beautiful Israelite widow saved the Jewish city of Bethulia from the Assyrians. The Assyrian commander, Holofernes, planned to seduce Judith after a banquet held in her honour. Instead he succumbed to alcohol and Judith seized the opportunity to cut off his head, causing the flight and defeat of the Assyrian army. The image of Judith with the head of Holofernes came to symbolise virtue overcoming vice. In the Renaissance a more cautionary note was sounded by the juxtaposition of Judith with other strong women like Delilah, indicating that her story might be seen as an allegory of man’s misfortunes at the hands of a scheming woman. Indeed the Wallace Collection’s picture is one of a series of three panels, each depicting famous heroines of antiquity. The other two panels in Bayonne show Sophonisba and Cleopatra.