Giambattista Piazzetta (Venice 1683 - Venice 1754)
Judith and Holofernes
Oil on canvas
98 x 114 cm
Judith is the only female character to have a book dedicated to her in the Old Testament. The heroine, with a cunning stratagem, saves her people from the siege of an Assyrian army led by Holofernes. Pretending she means to betray the Jewish people, she is welcomed into the enemy encampment. After a sumptuous banquet, she stealthily approaches the bed where the general lies overcome by wine, and slays him with his own scimitar.
While several artists focus on the grimmest moment of the episode, namely the beheading of Holofernes, Piazzetta depicts the instant immediately before it. Judith has loosed the knot that ties his scimitar, while with her other hand she draws aside the curtain around the bed. This gives the scene a strongly theatrical air: the curtain opens, letting the light falls on Judith, here represented as a refined woman of high rank, and reveals to the viewer a moment of suspense, marked by strong contrasts of light, while Holofernes’ body appears already haggard and lifeless.