Sunday, April 27, 2008

Judith and Holofernes...

I was chatting with Cnytr recently, about the manner in which Judith slaying Holofernes is usually painted. Knowing her prejudices about the religious art of the Renaissance, I proposed that it normally wasn't painted as religious art at all, but served as a particularly dramatic scene from scripture which gave the artist a chance to show their mettle. For instance, I argued, this painting of Artemisia Gentileschi has nothing particularly religious or devotional about it at all.

In fact, I added, it could just as easily be from the director's cut of a 21st Century Version of Pride and Prejudice - Jane and Lizzy getting revenge on that cad Wickham.
The Cnytr disagreed. She suggested I search for some illustrated manuscripts in order to see the Slaying of Holofernes presented in a devotional form. So, I did a bit of googling and found the following extraordinary comparison.

I've read a fair bit of patristic and some medieval exegesis, and so I'm fairly familiar with the typological parallels between the Old and New Testament. However, I'd never come across this one before. Judith slaying Holofernes is presented as a prefigurement of the Virgin Mary defeating the Devil by giving birth to Christ.
Pretty cool, no?


Michael said...

If you'd only asked!

A friend of mine is working on the Counter Ref usages of the iconography. She's found that a number of the Judiths were commissioned by widows, which makes a kind of sense.

Tom said...

We're going to be discussing Judith as a type of Mary under the rubric "she shall strike at thy head" at our next Lay Dominican Chapter meeting. Jael, too.

Anonymous said...

I have always enjoyed the story of Judith - she did was she had to do. Nice posted pictures too.