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Judith Slaying Holofernes
(279th) ART
2010년 03월 17일 (수) 18:56:37 Kim Du-ri, reporter drkim08@pusan.ac.kr


Judith Slaying Holofernes

Ed: This painting is painted by Artemisia Gentileschi, a female professional painter. Why is it so special among paints covering same subject?



          This painting describes ‘Judith slaying Holofernes’ like the title of the painting. Do you know about Judith in the Apocrypha of the Old Testament? Judith is regarded as a national heroine and femme fatale. 
          Bethulia, a peaceful Jewish village, was invaded and razed by the Assyrian army. Judith, the beautiful widow in Bethulia, went to the camp of the Assyrians, informing them how they might conquer the Israelites. After she acquired the trust of Holofernes, the leader of the Assyrians, she tempted him one night. During that fateful night, she beheaded him. The Assyrian army lost their leader and thereby retreated allowing Bethulia to regain peace. 
           This story is popular to many painters, because of the cruel and suggestive content. However, the painting of Artemisia Gentileschi is different from other paintings and drawings about the same subject. 
          First, Judith is portrayed in a more powerful and masculine light. The face of Judith looks calm and there is no hesitation or fear in her face. Most painters, particularly men, describe Judith in a feminine manner. In their paintings, Judith’s arms look weak and she appears to hesitate in killing her enemy. 
           Second, in Artemisia’s painting, the killing is in process. Most painters depict the scene after the killing. In their paintings, Judith just holds Holofernes head or pushes it in a bag. 
           Finally, the composition of the painting intentionally focuses on Holofernes beheaded. The victim’s two legs in the left and the helper’s two arms in the right draw a diagonal line. The bed is horizontal and the sword is vertical. There is the head of casualty at the intersection. Also, the background is dark, but murder scene is bright. 
           Why did Artemisia draw ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ like this? Maybe, it is related to her experience. When she was 16 years old, she was raped by Agostino Tassi, her painting teacher. He rapes her several times, telling her “I love you and I will marry you.” Yet, he is a married man. In the end, he is punished, but it is a very light punishment: deportation from Rome for 5 years. 
          Artemisia is the first woman who enters the lawsuit against rape in public. Because of this, she was more famous for scandal than her reputation as an artist. Some said that Judith not only possessed patriotic motives, but also revengeful thoughts defamed her fame as a woman. Did she reflect upon herself as Judith in Artemisia’s painting?


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