Giorgione, Judith, 1504
Giorgione (1477/8-1510) was a Venetian painter of the High Renaissance, and a close friend of Titian. Together the two painters are considered founders of the Venetian school. Although Giorgione died quite, he had a significant impact and produced a number of works. Judith is a take on the story of Judith and Holofernes, though is quite different from most representations. In the Book of Judith, the Jewish people re being invaded by an Assyrian army led by Holofernes. Frustrated with the inaction of her countrymen, Judith ingratiates herself with Holofernes, using her beauty and promises of information against the Israelites. She is given access to his tent, and when he lies in a drunken sleep, she decapitates him. Most depictions of the story, such as Artemisia Gentileschi's famous version depict the moment of violence, when Judith cuts off Holofernes' head with the help of her maid. Giorgione chose to depict Judith in a moment of triumph, stepping on the head of her conquered foe and holding her sword. This gives the image kinship with many depictions of David, who is frequently shown standing on Goliath's head. It also depicts Judith in a pose of great power; she has achieved her goal and appears with pride and serenity. The painting draws on traditions of portrait painting, for the rendering of Judith's face is stylistically similar to Renaissance portraits. Giorgione also demonstrates great skill in the rendering of Judith's garment, which drapes beautifully and marvelously reflects the sunlight. The outdoor setting is unusual for the story, but in keeping with a common interest in the beauty of the Italian countryside. This painting is a beautiful example of Giorgione's talent and the great art he produced in his short lifetime.
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