Judith and Holofernes

Judith and Holofernes

Judith and Holofernes

Artemisia Gentileschi was a 17th century Italian Baroque artist whose determination to succeed among the male-dominated world of artists and her refusal to allow discrimination and ignorance to bring her down is an inspiration to women to this day.

Gentileschi’s father, Orazio, was a well-known painter in his own right and it was in his workshop where she began learning her craft. When she was 17 her father received a commission to decorate vaults in a Roman palace so he hired a tutor, Agostino Tassi, to continue her training. However, Tassi raped the then-virginal Artemisia. Not one to just sit and take it, Artemisia pressed charges. During the trial she was subject to a gynecological exam and tortured with thumbscrews. She ended up winning the trial, but her rapist Tassi never served a day in jail.

Artemisia painted a couple of different pictures depicting the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. The interesting thing about this painting is that she painted herself as the heroine Judith. As for Holofernes, the one who’s being beheaded, his image is that of Artemisia’s rapist, Agostino Tassi. The image is violent and very realistic, but I like the way Artemisia doesn’t shy away from her topic or try to portray it any other way than what it is. She could only have been an extremely strong woman to survive what she did in her day, and that kind of courage earns her a rightful place among my sources of inspiration. So, too, does the subject of the painting itself. Heroine Judith actually saved her entire village from the raiding general Holofernes, who had raided them and plugged up their only source of water. Judith used her cunning and courage to seduce the general and then behead him when she had the chance, thus forcing his army to retreat and her village to be saved. Pretty inspiring, don’t you think?

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