Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Famous Paintings, Section 4



The WhiteRock  Family Digital  Art Gallery is presented in sections  containing eight images each of famous  paintings by
great artists.  The works  are arranged  according  to what are  generally  accepted and  what the author  thinks are the
best or the most important by the artists who are themselves presented according to the significance of their respective
contributions to art.

Some factors have to be  considered in order to understand  the criteria of the  selection of the works that are included
in this gallery. Examples of these are the influence of Western philosophy in the development of aesthetic  taste and the
adoption of   Western  values and  culture  in  the selection  of artistic  subjects,  the inspiration  that religious  faith has
provided in the creation of great art and the wealth and power of the Catholic Church to commission the services of the
greatest artists of the Renaissance and beyond.

On the other hand,  the human  form  has always  been a subject of  endless intellectual  speculation and this includes the
creation of tasteful art. Along this line, different cultures also have different standards of defining what is "tasteful."
These factors help explain the exclusion of certain aesthetic values and cultures in this selection as well as its liberality
over the selection of certain subjects that some individuals may otherwise find inappropriate.

Art may be objective, but the process of selecting cannot be but subjective. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.     

Welcome to The WhiteRock Family Digital Art Gallery.




This section includes works by the following painters:

Tomasso Masaccio
Giotto
Diego Velázquez
Salvador Dali
Paul Cézanne
Claude Monet
Francis Bacon
Caravaggio

Click on the image to view on black background; the title of the work to go to the source.
The name of the artist and location of work link to sources of more information.

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The Adoration of the Magi
Tomasso Masaccio
Tempera on poplar (1426)
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

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The Adoration of the Magi  or Adoration of the Kings  is the name  traditionally  given to the  subject  in the  Nativity of
Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star,
lay before him  gifts of gold,  frankincense,  and myrrh,  and worship him.  It is related in the Bible  by Matthew 2:11:  "On
entering the house,  they saw the  child with  Mary his mother;  and they knelt down and paid him homage.  Then, opening
their treasure chests,  they offered  him gifts of gold,  frankincense,  and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not
to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path".

Christian  iconography  has considerably  expanded the bare  account of the Biblical Magi  given in the second  chapter of
the Gospel of Matthew (2:1–22)  and used it to press  the point that Jesus was recognized, from his earliest infancy, as king
of the earth.  The scene  was often  used to represent the Nativity,  one of the most indispensable episodes in cycles of the
Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ.

In the church  calendar,  the  event is  commemorated  in Western  Christianity  as the  Feast of the  Epiphany  (January 6).
The Orthodox Church  commemorates the Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity (December 25).  The term is
anglicized from the Vulgate Latin section title for this passage: A Magis adoratur. wikipedia

Tommaso di Ser  Giovanni di Mone  (1401-1428)  was the shooting star in the  Florentine firmament,  gone almost as soon as
his brilliance  had been seen.  Standing  on the  threshold of the  15th century,  the artist  (whose nickname  was Masaccio,
short for Tommaso,  meaning "clumsy" or "messy" Tom)  is often regarded  as the founder  of Italian Renaissance painting,
ushering  in  the  classical  revival.   His  work  suggests  a  preference  for  the  simple  and  immediate,   both  qualities  he
inherited from Giotto.  Masaccio was also  guided by the sculpture of his day,  drawing inspiration particularly from the
works of Donatello.

One of the most  intriguing  legacies  of Masaccio’s  short life  is the altarpiece  he executed for a wealthy  notary  in the
church  of  Santa  Maria  del  Carmine  in  Pisa.  The  original  polyptych  altarpiece  was  dispersed  when  the  church  was
remodelled  in the 16th century.  The Adoration of the Magi  predella is now  in the  State Museum  in Berlin  and would
have been placed under the panel of the Virgin and Child, now in the National Gallery, London.

The Adoration  panel is  Masaccio’s  first narrative  religious  painting  and is completed  with admirable  conciseness. The
oldest King kneels before the  Virgin and Child  and there is a wonderful  sense of human warmth  and intimacy between
the figures. The fluid line created by the careful positioning of the three Kings guides the eye towards the two striking
figures swathed in grey.  These are  supposed  portraits of the  patron and  his son  and  hint at the burgeoning  awareness
among commissioners of the social and political potential of art. Italy Magazine

Masaccio and the Italian Renaissance from Peter Beal on YouTube
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The Flight into Egypt
Giotto di Bondone
Fresco (1304-06)
Capella di Scrovegni, Padua

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The flight into Egypt  is a biblical  event  described in the  Gospel of Matthew  (Matthew 2:13-23),  in which Joseph  fled to
Egypt with Mary  and infant son Jesus  after a visit by the Magi,  because they  learned that  King Herod  intended to kill
the infants of that area.  The episode is frequently  shown in art,  as the final  episode of the  Nativity of Jesus in art, and
was a common component in cycles of the Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ.

When the Magi  come in  search of  Jesus,  they go to  Herod  the Great  in Jerusalem  and ask  where to find  the newborn
"King of the Jews".  Herod becomes paranoid  that the child will  threaten his throne,  and seeks to kill him (2:1-8). Herod
initiates the  Massacre of the Innocents  in hopes of killing the child  (Matthew 2:16-Matthew 2:18).  But an angel appears
to Joseph in a dream and warns him to take Jesus and his mother into Egypt (Matthew 2:13).

Egypt was a logical place to find refuge,  as it was outside the dominions of King Herod,  but both  Egypt and Israel were
part of the Roman Empire,  linked by a coastal road  known as "the way of the sea",  making travel between them easy and
relatively safe. wikipedia

Flight Into Egypt was part of a  commission made by Enrico Scrovegni,  the son of a  wealthy banker who was consigned to
hell for usury in  Dante's Divine Comedy.  His main purpose  was the repentance  of his father's sins to  make  sure that he
went  to  heaven,   therefore  the  fresco   media  was  appropriate   because  of  its  relatively   cheap  materials,  including
limestone, water and pigments, which were inexpensive and therefore inoffensive to religious figures.

The  entirety  of  the   commission  itself  was  the   painting  of   the   Arena  Chapel   of  which  Giotto   had  a  part  in  the
architectural  design,  making sure  that  there  were large  amounts of  wall space  on which  he could  effectively  paint
frescoes. Giotto wanted to allow for huge figures that were close to being life-sized  (Flight Into Egypt is 2 x 1.8 meters)
to create a strong  physical  presence  of the  characters  such as Mary.  The near  life-sized  figures aided  in relating the
narrative to a  public  audience,  as the  majority  of them  were  not able  to read  and  needed  a simple,  visual  method of
following the stories of the Bible in the form of didactic art.

The large, clean and simple compositions that Giotto was able to create on the wall space the Arena Chapel provided also
allowed for a great amount of emphasis on the expression of human emotion that a public audience could easily relate to;
portraying characters like Mary and Joseph as human beings for a greater emotional impact. Art History 3.4A at www.nzqa.govt.nz

Giotto, Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel, Padua, from Smarthistory, art, history, conversation on YouTube. 
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Las Meninas
Diego Velázquez
Oil on canvas (1656)
Museo del Prado, Madrid

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Las Meninas  (Spanish for The Ladies-in-Waiting),  is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish
Golden Age. Its complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain
relationship between  the viewer and  the figures depicted.  Because of  these complexities,  Las Meninas  has been one of
the most widely analyzed works in Western painting.

The  painting  shows a  large room  in  the  Royal  Alcazar  of Madrid  during the  reign of  King  Philip IV  of  Spain,  and
presents   several   figures,   most  identifiable   from   the   Spanish   court.   The   young   Infanta   Margaret  Theresa   is
surrounded by  her  entourage  of maids  of  honour,  chaperone,  bodyguard,  two dwarfs  and  a dog.  Just  behind  them,
Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas.  Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a
viewer of the painting would stand.  In the background there is a mirror  that reflects the upper bodies of the king and
queen.  Some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.

Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. Luca Giordano said
that  it  represents  the  "theology  of  painting"  and  in  1827  the president  of  the  Royal  Academy of Arts  Sir  Thomas
Lawrence described the work as  "the true philosophy of the art".  More recently,  it has been  described as  "Velázquez's
supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve.

Las Meninas is set in Velázquez's  studio in Philip IV's  Alcázar palace in Madrid.  The high-ceilinged room is presented as
"a  simple  box  that  could  be  divided  into  a  perspective   grid  with  a  single  vanishing   point".   In  the  centre  of  the
foreground stands the Infanta Margaret Theresa.  The five-year-old infanta,  who later married Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold I,  was  at  this point  Philip  and  Mariana's  only  surviving  child.  She is  attended  by  two ladies-in-waiting,  or
meninas:   doña  Isabel  de  Velasco,   who  is  poised to  curtsy  to  the  princess,   and  doña  María  Agustina  Sarmiento  de
Sotomayor,  who kneels before  Margaret Theresa,  offering her a drink  from a red cup,  or bucaro,  that she holds on a
golden tray.  To the right of the  Infanta are  two dwarfs:  the achondroplastic  German,  Maribarbola,  and the Italian,
Nicolas  Pertusato,  who playfully  tries  to rouse a  sleepy  mastiff  with his foot.  Behind them  stands doña Marcela de
Ulloa, the princess's chaperone, dressed in mourning and talking to an unidentified bodyguard (or guardadamas).

To the rear and at right stands  Don José Nieto Velázquez,  the queen's chamberlain who may have been a relative of the
artist. Nieto is shown pausing, with his right knee bent and his feet on different steps. Both this backlight and the open
doorway reveal  space behind:  in the words of the  art historian Analisa Leppanen,  they lure  "our eyes inescapably into
the  depths".   The  royal  couple's  reflection  pushes  in  the  opposite  direction,   forward  into  the  picture  space.   The
vanishing point  of the perspective  is in the doorway,  as can be shown by  extending the  line of the meeting of wall and
ceiling  on the right.  Nieto is  seen  only  by the king  and queen,  who share the  viewer's  point of view,  and  not  by the
figures in the foreground.

Velázquez himself  is pictured to the left of the scene,  looking outward  past a large canvas  supported by an easel.  On
his chest is the red cross of the  Order of Santiago,  which he did not receive until 1659,  three years after the painting
was completed.  A mirror  on the back  wall reflects  the upper  bodies and heads of  two figures identified  from other
paintings as King Philip IV and Queen Mariana.  The most common assumption is that the reflection shows the couple in
the pose they are holding for Velázquez as he paints them.

Of the nine  figures depicted,  five are  looking  directly  out at the  royal couple  or the viewer.  Their glances,  along
with the king and queen's reflection,  affirm the royal couple's presence  outside the painted space.  Alternatively, art
historians H. W. Janson and Joel Snyder  suggest that the image  of the king and queen is a reflection from Velázquez's
canvas, the front of which is obscured from the viewer. wikipedia

Las Meninas: Is This the Best Painting in History? from Nerdwriter1 on YouTube
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Oil on canvas, 1931

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The Persistence of Memory is one of Salvador Dalí's most recognizable works. First shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in
1932,  since 1934 the painting has been in the collection of the  Museum of Modern Art in New York City,  which received
it from an  anonymous  donor.  It is  widely  recognized and  frequently  referenced  in popular  culture  and  sometimes
referred to by more descriptive (though incorrect) titles, such as 'The Soft Watches' or 'The Melting Watches'.

The well-known piece introduced the  image of the soft melting pocket watch.  It epitomizes Dalí's theory of  "softness"
and  "hardness",   which  was  central  to  his  thinking  at  the  time.    As  Dawn  Ades  wrote,   "The  soft   watches  are  an
unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed
cosmic order". This interpretation suggests that Dalí was incorporating an understanding of the world introduced by
Albert Einstein's  theory of special relativity.  Asked by  Ilya Prigogine  whether this  was in fact the case,  Dalí replied
that the soft  watches were  not inspired by the theory of relativity,  but by the  surrealist  perception of a Camembert
melting in the sun.

It is possible to  recognize a human figure  in the middle of the composition,  in the strange  "monster"  that Dalí used in
several   contemporary   pieces  to   represent   himself   –   the  abstract   form  becoming  something   of  a  self-portrait,
reappearing  frequently in his work.  The figure  can be  read as a  "fading"  creature,  one that  often appears  in dreams
where the dreamer cannot pinpoint the creature's  exact form and composition.  One can observe  that the creature has
one closed eye with several eyelashes, suggesting that the creature is also in a dream state.  The iconography may refer
to a dream that Dalí himself had  experienced,  and the clocks  may symbolize  the passing of time as one experiences it in
sleep or the persistence of time in the eyes of the dreamer.

The orange clock  at the bottom left of the  painting is covered in ants.  Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol
of decay.  The painting  employs  "the  exactitude  of  realist  painting  techniques"  to depict  imagery more  likely  to be
found in dreams than in waking consciousness.

The craggy rocks  to the right  represent a tip of  Cap de Creus  peninsula  in north-eastern  Catalonia.   Many of  Dalí's
paintings   were  inspired   by  the  landscapes   of  his  life  in  Catalonia.   The  strange  and   foreboding  shadow   in  the
foreground of this painting is a reference to Mount Pani. wikipedia

Dali: The Persistence of Memory video from Khan Academy
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Oil on canvas (1894 -  95)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

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The Card Players  is a  series of  oil  paintings  by the  French  Post-Impressionist  artist  Paul Cézanne.  Painted  during
Cézanne's final period in the early 1890s, there are five paintings in the series. The versions vary in size, the number of
players,  and the setting in which the game takes place.  One version of  The Card Players  was sold in 2011 to the Royal
Family of Qatar  for a price  estimated  at between  $250 million  and $300 million,  making it the  third most expensive
work of art ever sold.

Each  painting  depicts  Provençal  peasants  immersed  in  their  pipes  and  playing  cards.   The  subjects,   all  male,   are
displayed as  studious  within their  card playing,  eyes cast downward,  intent on the  game at hand.  Cézanne  adapted a
motif from  17th-century  Dutch  and  French  genre painting  which often  depicted card  games with  rowdy,  drunken
gamblers in taverns, replacing them instead with stone-faced tradesmen in a more simplified setting.

Whereas previous paintings of the genre had illustrated heightened moments of drama, Cézanne's portraits have been
noted for their lack of drama, narrative, and conventional characterization. Other than an unused wine bottle in the
two-player  versions,  there  is an  absence of  drink  and  money,  which  were  prominent  fixtures  of the  17th  century
genre.  A painting by one of the  Le Nain brothers,  hung in an  Aix-en-Provence  museum near the artist's home,  depicts
card players and is widely cited as an inspiration for the works by Cézanne.

The models for the paintings were local farmhands, some of whom worked on the Cézanne family estate.  Each scene is
depicted  as one of quiet,  still  concentration;  the men look down  at their cards  rather than at each other,  with the
cards being  perhaps  their  sole means  of communication  outside  of work.  One  critic  described the scenes as  "human
still  life",   while  another  speculated  that  the  men's   intense  focus  on  their  game  mirrors  that  of  the  painter's
absorption in his art. wikipedia
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Impression, Sunrise
Claude Monet
Oil on canvas (1872)
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

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  Impression, Sunrise  depicts the port of Le Havre,  Monet's hometown,  and is his  most famous painting of the harbor.
Shown  at what  would  later  be  known  as the  "Exhibition  of the  Impressionists"  in April  1874,  it is attributed to
giving rise to the name of the  Impressionist movement.  The painting was stolen from the  Musée Marmottan Monet
in 1985  by Philippe  Jamin  and  Youssef  Khimoun  but recovered in 1990.  Since 1991  it has been  back on  display in the
museum.

Monet claimed that he titled the painting  Impression, Sunrise  due to his  hazy painting style  in his depiction of the
subject:  "They asked me for a title for the catalogue,  it couldn't really be taken for a view of  Le Havre,  and I said:
'Put Impression.'"  In addition  to this  explanation  for the  title of the work,  art historian  Paul Smith  claims that
Monet  might  have named  the painting  Impression  to excuse  his painting  from  accusations of  being unfinished or
lacking descriptive detail, but Monet received these criticisms regardless of the title.

While the  title of the painting  seemed to be  chosen  in haste for the catalogue,  the term  "Impressionism"  was not
new.  It had been used  for some time  to describe the effect of  paintings from the  Barbizon school.  Both associated
with the school,  Daubigny and Manet  had been known to use the term  to describe their own works.  In critic Louis
Leroy's review  of the 1874  exhibition,  "The Exhibition  of the  Impressionists"  for the  newspaper  Le Charivari,  he
used "Impressionism"  to describe the new style of work displayed,  which he said was typified by Monet’s  painting of
the same name.

Before the 1860s and the debut of Impression, Sunrise, the term "impressionism" was originally used to describe the
effect of a  natural scene  on a painter,  and  the effect of a  painting on the  viewer.  By the  1860s,  "impression"  was
used by transference  to describe a painting which relayed  such an effect.  In turn,  impression came to describe the
movement  as   a  whole.   Initially   used  to  describe   and   deprecate   a   movement,   the  term   Impressionism "  was
immediately  taken  up  by   all  parties"   to  describe  the   style,   and   Monet’s   Impression,  Sunrise   considered   to
encapsulate the start of the movement and its name. wikipedia

In this painting,  the sun is placed against the dawn sky,  with orange and blue-violet contrast.  Because it was a very
misty morning on the harbor,  the clouds are  colored by the rising sun,  in the dense mist,  and the boats  take shape,
without  great  definition.  The abbreviated,  darker  brushstrokes  on the water,  create motion  and ripples,  while
hints of  orange  and yellow  appear as a  reflection  of the sunrise.  The ships’ masts are  sometimes  disrupted by the
rippling water, as the silhouettes of the boats seem to be disappearing into the mist.

An interesting observation about this painting is that although  the sun seems to be much brighter than the rest of
the scene,  if viewed removing all color, the sun almost disappears. This supports Monet’s mastery of depicting light
effects  on  scenes  which  he  painted.   This  accurate  reproduction  of  Monet’s  impression,  and resulting  mood  of
atmospheric  conditions  dominate,  and  limit  the  importance  of great  detail.  The  viewer  almost feels  that he is
looking out  the same  window  that Monet  did that  Spring  morning.  Once  called  an abstract  piece of unfinished
work by critics,  over one-hundred years later,  Monet’s work is part of a historic art movement,  and Monet helped
to make a name for the Impressionistic artists as well. Totally History

Monet's Impression, Sunrise: Painting & Analysis on study.com
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Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion
Francis Bacon
Oil paint & pastel on fiber board (1944)
Tate, London

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Three Studies  for Figures at the  Base of a Crucifixion  were painted  over the  course of  two week s in 1944  in the
ground floor flat at 7 Cromwell Place,  South Kensington.  During the day  the converted billiard room served as
Bacon's studio, and at night as an illicit casino.

Bacon recalled that at the time he was drinking heavily and that he painted the studies in an alcoholic haze.  Later
he was to admit  that he hardly knew  what he  was doing,  though he  believed  that alcohol  had loosened his style.
Yet,   despite  this  unpromising  genesis,  the  triptych  of   three  writhing,   anthropomorphic  figures,   with  their
featureless,  scarcely human  faces  contorted  into  what  might  be  either  pain  or  exquisite ecstasy,  set  against a
background of visceral oranges, reds and blacks, marks a watershed in British painting.

Bacon had been painting  the Crucifixion since 1933  but he considered  the works unsuccessful  and destroyed them,
and,  for a while,  abandoned painting.  When he  did return  to the subject of the  Crucifixion 11  years later he was
influenced by his  reading of  Aeschylus's  savage drama  The Oresteia  (itself a trilogy)  which tells  the tale of the
curse  of  the  House of  Atreus  and  the  pursuit,  by the  avenging  Furies  (or Eumenides),  of those  responsible for
murder.  Generally considered  to be his  first masterwork,  Bacon was at some pains  to suppress the showing of any
paintings that pre-dated the Three Studies.

Bacon's  Eumenides  are  barely  recognisable  as  human  figures,  for  they  have  no  eyes  but  only  gaping,  silently
screaming mouths.  The creature  on the left,  seated on a table of sorts,  is the most recognisably human.  Partially
draped in a  length of cloth,  this bent  form,  with its  hunched  white  shoulders,  its stumpy,  malformed  arms and
bowed head  topped with a mop  of dark hair,  might be a mourner  at some unnamed wake,  while that in the central
panel,  with  its  grimacing  mouth  set  directly  into its  elongated  neck,  is blindfolded  by a white cloth  -  a motif
taken,  perhaps,  from  Matthias  Grnewald's  Mocking of Christ  -  and  resembles  some  large,  flightless  bird.  The
figure on the right appears to have most of its upper face missing. Its head is thrown back, its mouth stretched open
to reveal its teeth, as if in the grips of some bestial orgasmic spasm.

The heads of all three figures point downwards,  following a series of converging  lines that radiate out from the
central plinth  and imply  a room or an  enclosed  space.  The mood is one  of bleak  isolation  and violent angst.  This
work is to painting what Sartre's Huis Clos is to literature; a paean to existential despair.

This is  also a  Crucifixion  with a difference,  for there is  no evidence,  not even a shadow,  of the actual  event.  No
trace of  Christ  or his cross,  though Bacon  did say in a letter in  1959 that  Three Studies  were,  "intended  to [be]
use[d]  at the base of a large  Crucifixion  which I may still do".  Yet how  genuine this remark  was is hard to gauge
from  the  bleakly  nihilistic  non-believer  who  once  said,  "I think  of life  as meaningless;  but we give it  meaning
during our own existence …" "we are born and we die,  but in between we give this purposeless existence a meaning
by our drives."

Like many other artists and writers of the early 20th century, Bacon had read Nietzsche, and shared something of
his hypothesis of  "a strong  pessimism".  He had  been  particularly  attracted to  The Birth of Tragedy.  Nietzsche's
passionate  rejection  of  Christianity,   and  his  passion  for  life  resonated  with  Bacon,   who  said: "…   you  can  be
optimistic and  totally  without hope.  One's  basic  nature is  totally  without hope,  and yet one's nervous  system is
made out of optimistic stuff." Sue Hubbard

Francis Bacon and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion on Vimeo 
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Judith Beheading Holofernes
Caravaggio
Oil on canvas (1598-99)
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini, Rome

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The deutero-canonical Book of Judith tells how Judith served her people by seducing and pleasuring Holofernes,
the Assyrian general.  Judith gets Holofernes drunk, then seizes his sword and slays him: "Approaching to his bed,
she took hold of the hair of his head." (Judith, 13:7-8).

Caravaggio's  approach  was,  typically,  to  choose  the  moment of  greatest  dramatic  impact,  the  moment  of the
decapitation itself. The figures are set out in a shallow stage, theatrically lit from the side, isolated against the
inky,   black  background.    Judith   and   her  maid   Abra  stand  to  the  right,  partially  over  Holofernes,  who  is
vulnerable  on his back.  X-rays have revealed that  Caravaggio adjusted the  placement of  Holofernes' head as he
proceeded,  separating  it  slightly  from  the  torso  and  moving it  slightly  to the right.  The  faces of  the three
characters demonstrate  his mastery of emotion,  Judith in particular  showing in her face a mix of determination
and  repulsion.   Artemisia  Gentileschi   and  others  were  deeply  influenced  by  this  work,   and  even   surpassed
Caravaggio's  physical  realism,  but it  has been  argued  that  none  matched  his  capture of  Judith's psychological
ambivalence.  The model for  Judith is  probably  the Roman  courtesan  Fillide Melandroni,  who posed for several
other works by Caravaggio around this year. wikipedia

A whole book in the Bible  is devoted to Judith,  because as a woman she  embodies the power of the  people of Israel
to defeat the enemy, though superior in numbers,  by means of  cunning and courage.  She seeks out the conquering
Holofernes  in   his  tent,   seduces   him,  makes  him  drunk,   then   beheads  him.   The  sight  of  their   commander's
bloodstained head on the battlements of Bethulia puts the enemy to flight.

In the painting,  Judith comes in with her  maid from the right,  against the  direction  of reading the picture.  The
general is lying naked on a white sheet. Paradoxically, his bed is distinguished by a magnificent red curtain, whose
color crowns the act of murder as well as the heroine's triumph.

This  is the  first time  Caravaggio  chose  such a  highly  dramatic  subject,  and  with  good reason.  His  Judith  is an
expression of an allegorical-moral contest in which Virtue overcomes Evil. In contrast to the elegant and distant
beauty of the vexed Judith,  the ferocity of the scene is concentrated in the  inhuman scream and the body spasm of
the giant Holofernes.  Caravaggio has managed to render,  with exceptional efficacy,  the most dreaded moment in
a man's life:  the passage  from  life to death.  The  upturned  eyes of  Holofernes  indicate  that  he is  not  alive any
more,  yet signs of life still persist in the  screaming mouth,  the contracting body  and the hand that still grips at
the bed.  The original  bare breasts of Judith,  which suggest  that she has  just left the bed,  were later  covered by
the semi-transparent blouse.

The roughness of the details and the realistic precision with which the horrific decapitation is rendered  (correct
down to the  tiniest details  of anatomy and physiology)  has led to the hypothesis that the  painting was inspired by
two highly publicized  contemporary  Roman executions;  that of  Giordano Bruno  and above all of  Beatrice Cenci
in 1599. www.bc.edu

Judith Beheading Holofernes from Classical Harmony on YouTube.
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