Artemisia Gentileschi is known as one of the best female artists in history in many art history books and texts. She was born in Rome and trained by her father in portrait painting. However, she became best known for her religious scenes, especially this piece.
Here’s the 1-2-3 on Judith Slaying Holofernes:
- Judith was one of Artemisia’s favorite characters to paint. She’s actually the subject of six of Artemisia’s paintings. This Biblical story portrays the Jewish heroine, Judith, who saved her people by killing an enemy general.
- It’s thought that this piece represents personal trauma from Artemisia’s own life. When she was 19 years old, she claimed that another artist in their workshop raped her. A trial ensued and she was tortured with thumbscrews to “verify” her evidence.
- Artemisia based this painting off of Caravaggio’s version of this subject. Caravaggio was known for the use of realism and dramatic lighting in his paintings that is also exemplified in Artemisia’s piece.
I took much of this information from past courses and a great book I own called “World Art: The Essential Illustrated History” (Flame Tree Publishing, 2006).