Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne (1504)

Giorgione (c.1477-1510)

Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne (Judith with the Head of Holofernes)
Oil on canvas, 144 cm x 68 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Giorgione‘s work largely determined the development of 16th-century Venetian painting. There are but a few generally accepted, non-controversial works from his hand and one of these is the Hermitage‘s Judith. This biblical heroine, who saved her native city of Bethulia from attack by the Assyrians, was extremely popular during the Renaissance (Old Testament, Apocrypha, The Book of Judith, I-XVI). Despite the historical subject, the painting is in fact what is known as a poesie, a type of work created by Giorgione himself and soon widespread in early 16th-century Venetian painting. The lyrical, charming image of Judith herself and the coolness of the morning landscape create the mood of poetical thoughtfulness, which is not disturbed even by the severed head of the enemy commander Holofernes. The world is depicted by the artist as a harmonic whole, in which life and death are indissoluble. (SHM)