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The Sword of Judith

 | 
Kevin R. Brine
, 
Elena Ciletti
, 
Henrike Lähnemann

Visual Arts

18. Costuming Judith in Italian Art of the Sixteenth Century

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona

Texte intégral

  • 1 I acknowledge all those libraries, museums, and archives that graciously opened doors, files, arch (...)

1Note portant sur l'auteur *1

2In the almost thousand years of Judith imagery between the sculptures and stained glass of medieval cathedrals and the choreography of Martha Graham, the costuming evidenced most specifically by the ”ornaments,” or jewelry, of the Jewish heroine underwent significant development, beyond the typical attitudes of the ”modes of fashion.” Central to this remodeling in Christian art is the changing interpretations of the scriptural assertion that Judith ”omnibus ornamentis suis ornavit se” (Jdt 10:3), that is, she ”adorned herself with all her ornaments.” Italian Renaissance artists from the mid-fifteenth century contributed a new dimension to her transformation from a simply dressed medieval widow into a bejeweled Renaissance lady. Donatello’s innovations in his influential bronze sculpture Judith and Holofernes (Fig. 17.1) provided the essential impetus, in his ornamentation of the heroine’s garment with mythological figures that symbolically reference armor and thereby her warrior nature (Fig. 18.1). From this sculpted Early Renaissance revision into the art of the Italian Baroque world, Judith’s dress, hairstyle, and, especially, jewelry were made to correspond with her identity as a female hero.

3The development of Donatello’s innovations in the ”tradition of costuming” can be traced in the work of the next several generations of Italian artists: from Sandro Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Michelangelo, and Giorgio Vasari to Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi. The symbolic meanings and cultural origins of these alterations to Judith’s costuming in the works of these artists reflect values from the classical tradition of the female agency of Athena, Artemis, and the Amazons, those independent women who either wore armor or carried weapons in anticipation of battle or the hunt.

18.1. Judith’s upper body and right hand with sword from Donatello, Judith and Holofernes, 1457–64. Palazzo della Signoria, Florence, Italy. Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource.

4Although the historical question of the origin of the Book of Judith lies outside my field of expertise, the Christian visual persona of Judith as an exemplary (read pious and chaste) widow whose faith led her to perform extraordinary deeds made her one of the traditional prototypes for the Virgin Mary. The Christian patristic practice of deciphering classical traditions and the Hebrew scriptures as prophecies, in terms of persons and episodes, to be fulfilled in the Christian scriptures, was transferred from texts to images and became one of the keystones of Christian iconography. Thereby, Judith like her female Jewish scriptural ancestors and descendants, whether their stories were apocryphal or canonical, entered into the visual canon of Christianity defined through a clearly Christian lens.

  • 2 Alexander Roberts (ed.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1950), I, p. 2 (...)
  • 3 Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ”Virgin/Virginity,” in Helene Roberts (ed.), Encyclopedia of Comparativ (...)

5Following this pattern of interpretation from the early Christian fathers such as Clement of Rome to Augustine and Jerome, Christian artists initially depicted Judith as an appropriately dressed chaste (read virginal) widow in simple flowing garments with her hair covered as a sign of modesty and respect. Her deed, however, separated her from the typical Jewish widow, if not from Jewish women generally, when read through the commentary of, say, Clement of Rome, who identified her among those singular women who, ”… being strengthened by the grace of God, have performed numerous manly exploits.”2 However, in doing so, these early Christian theologians began the transformation of Judith from a Jewish woman into a Christian prototype for the Virgin who fused both the aspects of the so-called Hebraic heritage of Christianity with the classical world in which this new religion was nurtured. Hence from her earliest Christian visual beginnings, Judith was a fusion of the pious devotion of a Jewish widow and the agency of the classical female warrior framed within the contemporary religious and cultural category of virginity.3

From Rome to Florence: Judith’s Journey from Pious Widow to Female Warrior

  • 4 I am grateful to Dr. Olof Brandt, Secretary, Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, Rome, (...)

6The earliest identifiable Christian image of Judith is found among the eighth-century frescoes of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome. Although the current damaged state of the Judith fresco would make any discussion of her figure virtually impossible, the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tinted photographs and color drawings of the magisterial Christian archeologist, Josef Wilpert, provide a window into what this frescoed figure looked like.4 Dressed in a green-striped garment embellished with an embroidered maroon trim, shod with gold and green sandals, and carrying the severed head of Holofernes, this image of Judith and the presentation of this episode in her story became the model for her presentations until the sculpture by Donatello. Evidenced by my own research of over 150 medieval manuscript illuminations, dating from the mid ninth to the early fifteenth centuries, these presentations of a Judith – whether in the act of decapitating Holofernes or returning to Bethulia with the trophy of his severed head – emphasize the calm nature of her person in contrast to the gruesome nature of her actions. As such, her earliest iconography suggests that she is the simple instrument and handmaiden of the Lord, thereby visually correlating her with the Virgin Mary.

  • 5 See Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 42, referencing Jerome’s translation of Jdt 16:26.

7From these manuscript illuminations, Judith is characterized as a simply dressed widow throughout those narrative episodes depicted in medieval sculptures such as those on the capitol relief in the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Vézèlay or on the north porch dedicated to the Virgin Mary and female saints, heroines, and martyrs of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. This medieval visual model of Judith embodied the contemporary Christian virtues of Chastity and Humility, both of which identified her further with the Virgin Mary and built upon the textual foundations not only of patristic texts but also of Jerome’s Vulgate. In fact, he clarified further the parallel between both the ”before, during, and after” of Mary’s virginity with Judith’s celibate (read chaste and virginal) life before her marriage, during her widowhood, and after her return to Bethulia.5

  • 6 Jdt 10:4 as cited in Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology in the Renaissance Iconography of Judith,” p. (...)

8The early Church was uncomfortable with both the idea of Judith’s alleged seduction (with its sexual nature that was never clearly stated in the formal text) and the passage denoting her elaborate costuming. However, Jerome’s description of Judith’s ”dressing up” for Holofernes was a pious action as it was ”the Lord [who] increased her beauty … because all this dressing up did not proceed from sensuality, but from virtue.”6 Curiously, Jerome was one of the strongest advocates for modesty and humility in female attire even unto his pronouncements against makeup, coiffure, and jewelry for Christian women who were to take Mary as their model. Nonetheless, from the fourth-century alignment of Christianity with the Roman Empire into the time of the Reformation, even the Virgin Mary was garbed in the more elegant attire, adornments, and coiffures of the ladies of the court.

  • 7 Douay reads: ”I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall (...)
  • 8 Giorgione’s Judith (1500–1504: Hermitage, Saint Petersburg) parallels Mary as the Second Eve with (...)

9As Judith became more formed and reformed into a prototype of the Virgin, especially once the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 – ”inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius”7 – became critical to the theological readings of Mary. This ”manly exploit” was paralleled to Judith’s severing of Holofernes’s head from his body, so that she became a female paragon of feminine and masculine virtues.8 Even as Judith moved into the world of Renaissance art and Christian theology, she maintained her image of a virtuous femme forte even as artists like Donatello, Michelangelo, and Vasari visually identified her with the heroic women of the classical world.

  • 9 Edgar Wind, ”Donatello’s Judith: A Symbol of Sanctimonia,” The Journal of the Warburg and Courtaul (...)

10The transition in the iconography of Judith from the early Christian and medieval worlds into the Renaissance and Baroque was influenced as much by the newer cultural attitudes highlighted with an interest in the psychology of both viewer and subject as by the humanizing of religious art. Judith’s metamorphosis from the simply dressed widow to an elegant lady, signified outwardly by the change in her costuming, was evidenced first in Donatello’s bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes. The classic description of this Judith as the personification of Sanctimonia Humilitas in contrast to that of Lussuria Superbia by the defeated Holofernes at her feet was established by the eminent art historian Edgar Wind.9 Continuing the tradition of relating Judith to the Virgin Mary, other commentators have noted the history of this work and its technical innovations; however, much ink has been spilled over discussions of the iconography. There has been very little, if no, discussion of the meaning of Judith’s ”ornaments” and how those ”ornaments” helped to identify her persona and transformations in the Renaissance and Baroque.

11Clearly, this sculpture has had a significant history, if for no other reason than the following lines excerpted from the minutes of the Florentine Senate when it decided to move Donatello’s bronze sculpture in favor of Michelangelo’s David:

  • 10 Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 68, citing the translation in Robert Klein and Henri Zerner (e (...)

Judith is an omen of evil, and no fit object where it stands, as we have the cross and lily for our emblems; besides, it is not proper that the woman should kill the male; and above all, this statue was erected under an evil star, as things have gone from bad to worse since then.10

12While other contributors in this present volume have addressed the history of this particular sculpture and its place in Florentine history, I want to reflect on how Donatello sets a pace for future generations of Italian artists in their presentation of Judith. His heroine was not ”an omen of evil” but an independent female warrior whose ”dressing up” was so significant to Jerome that he incorporated it into his Latin translation of the Bible and commented upon this act.

13First, consider the visual evidence in looking at the sculpture in its cleaned and restored condition. The elegantly pivoting pose of the figure of Judith rises above the twisted base, which sets a tone for the movement of the viewer’s eyes, to stand triumphant over both the carefully illustrated triangular base original to the sculpture and the collapsed body of a seatedand weak Holofernes. She takes the classical posture of victory as she stands over her defeated enemy. Her calm and beautiful face looks downward not so much at her victim but past him to her elegantly shod left foot. Her right arm is raised high above her head, risking injury to herself as well as signifying the power required to swing the sword forward to decapitate Holofernes. By this action Judith’s right hand and wrist are exposed. This ”revealing” begins the diagonal movement within the sculpture that runs from the hovering sword past Judith’s elevated right shoulder to her girdle and the first tier of her garment toward her left hand as she grasps the head of Holofernes by his hair, following the scripture ”adprehendit comam capitis eius” (Jdt 13:9), or ”she took him by the hair of his head” and then further downward past her knee and lower leg supporting the drunken general, to the sandal on her en pointe foot. Thus, Donatello draws our attention not only to the actions Judith performs in the swing of the sword, her grasp of Holofernes, and the placement of her feet, but to her costuming, from her exposed wrist with its ”bracelet” to the elegance of her sandaled and pedicured foot.

  • 11 Douay translation of mitram (Jdt 10:3) is ”bonnet.”
  • 12 For example, the lid from the late third-century child’s sarcophagus #31503 in the Museo Pio Crist (...)

14Held too close to the multi-layered headpiece covering her hair in the style of a modest matron, the curve of her scimitar draws attention to the embroidered trim on her headband and ”bonnet,”11 which were made of sackcloth. This curve is counterbalanced by the curve on her neckline as it draws our eye to what appears to be either richly embossed trim or an elaborate necklace. Above these two curves of headpiece and neckline, Judith’s upraised right hand and wrist hover, so that I note the continuation of the trim from her neckline, in the form of a cuff bracelet, onto her wrist (Fig. 18.1). Careful inspection of the detailed images on Judith’s headpiece, right wrist, and neckline confirm that these are neither simple ”trim” nor jewelry. Rather, comparing these costuming highlights with other sculptures of Donatello, the visual quotations are recognizable as being both classical in nature and following the traditional patterns of the armor worn by members and soldiers of the Medici family. Judith’s heavy ”neckpiece” can be read as quotation of the cuirass from the Athena Armed as Athena Parthenos (Fig. 18.2), and her bracelet as the piece of armor known as a vambrace. Both incorporate images of chariots and putti with weapons, flowers, or fruit, thereby referencing the classical mythology of the warrior hero. Further, the arrangement of the winged putti holding the empty disk in the center of Judith’s cuirass can be read as a visual quotation from the classical and early Christian sarcophagi on which winged genii held a medallion with a portrait of the deceased.12

  • 13 Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane, ”The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!...Images of Judi (...)

15However, the empty disk is more likely than not a visual reference to the relationship between the scriptural Judith and the classical Perseus. The monstrous chthonic female known as the Medusa was characterized by her serpent tresses and a face that was simultaneously beautiful and terrifying to behold. Whoever looked at this tortured creature was immediately turned into stone. Aided by Athena and Hermes, Perseus conquered the dreaded Medusa by not looking at her face during combat but having her look at her own face in his mirrored shield. Thereby, he was able to sever her head and deliver it to Athena who emblazoned her shield, the Aegis, with this facial insignia, and became invincible in battle. Such a reference would further connect Judith with the virginal goddess of wisdom, war, and weaving. Athena emphasized this tripartite interconnection by consistently aiding her devotees (like Odysseus) with a plan for the Trojan horse just as Judith created a plan for the siege of Bethulia at the cost of only one life. Further, as the patron of Athens, Athena became a significant referent for Judith, who (like David) became symbolic of Florence as ”the new Athens.”13

16The multi-tiered garment Donatello creates for his Judith, which is employed also by Botticelli and modified by Michelangelo and Vasari, appears from the side perspectives to flutter in the wind like the cape of a rider. Judith stands astride Holofernes’s shoulders and grasps locks of his hair with her fingers just as the rider holds the reins of a horse. This visual metaphor of Judith as the rider and Holofernes as the horse connotes the reality that the rider, normally of a smaller weight and stature than the horse, controls the horse by dominance of will and thought, thereby again referencing the classical traditions related to Athena. The positioning of Judith’s left leg, especially her knee, become significant as it and the connecting pleats in her garment draw attention to the midpoint of Holofernes’s back. There the chain he wears around his neck has been turned around so that the medallion hangs down his back. Impressed upon the medallion, just by Judith’s knee, is the image of a horse and rider.

  • 14 Federico Della Valle, Judit (1627), (1978 trans., 3.4.431 as cited by Elena Ciletti, ” ‘Gran Macch (...)

17Donatello began a series of visual trends in the depiction of Judith that connected the classical culture being rediscovered in the Renaissance with the Christianization of this Jewish heroine. Further, his innovations influenced other artists of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. Judith was imaged from this point forward no longer as the simply dressed widow of the early Christian and medieval periods but more in the line of the seventeenth-century playwright Federico Della Valle’s description: ”gran macchina bellezza.”14

18.2. Athena Armed as Athena Parthenos, Third century b.c.e. Musée du Louvre MR285, Paris. Photo credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY.

Judith as Renaissance Warrior

  • 15 Apostolos-Cappadona, ”The Lord has struck him down,” pp. 89–91.
  • 16 Moshe Barasch, ”The Crying Face,” Artibus et Historiae, 15 (1987), pp. 21–36.

18One of Andrea Mantegna’s versions of the theme of Judith and Holofernes clarifies further the interconnections between Early Renaissance depictions and classical traditions. His Judith and Holofernes (1491) (Fig. 16.6 and compare Fig. 18.2) presents Judith dressed in classical Greek garments of a flowing white chiton and blue mantle dramatically wrapped around her right arm and her pelvic area.15 However, unlike Donatello and his later descendants, there is no visual appeal specifically to armor or to jewelry. There was direct referencing both to Athena and to classical depictions of the hero. The passive, almost eerily calm (to twenty-first-century eyes) demeanor of this Judith, who lowers her sword with her right hand as she places the severed head of Holofernes into the bag with her left hand, belies the gruesome nature of the act this woman has committed. Yet the face of the hero in classical Greek and Roman art was one of calm and serenity, a convention followed in both secular and Christian art through the sixteenth century.16 Further, the classical head – even unto the coiffure that Mantegna paints on his Judith – is a visual quotation from classical depictions of Athena.

18.3. Michelangelo, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1509–11. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, pendentive fresco; (left) detail of the same. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).

  • 17 I am grateful for the research privileges and conversation with Dr. Anna Maria De Strobel, Curator (...)

19While Michelangelo’s Judith (Fig. 18.3) wears no jewelry, perhaps because we see her both from the back and after the action, her costume does allude to Donatello’s employment of the multi-tiered dress and armor.17 Her ”bonnet” covers her hair while also forming a first line of defense between her head and the helmet she might wear during battle. Further, the detailing on this ”bonnet” is distinctive and connotes a military referent. More important is the referencing to a warrior’s cuirass in her blue and green over-bodices. Her yellow epaulettes – a visual pun on ailettes, or armorial shoulder wings – again signify her warrior image, while the color suggests that Judith, at least as conceived by Michelangelo, was of Jewish heritage.

  • 18 I examined this painting accompanied by Judith W. Mann, Curator of EuropeanPaintings, Saint Louis (...)

20Giorgio Vasari, perhaps best known as the author of the Lives of the Artists, painted an extraordinary image of Judith and Holofernes in ca. 1554 (Fig. 18.4).18 A student of Michelangelo and an admirer of Donatello, Vasari combined visual quotations from both masters’ works with his own special ”twist” in the presentation and meaning of Judith’s ”ornaments.” Dressed in a garment composed of a pale pink cuirass with gold trim at the neck, shoulders, and sleeves, Vasari’s Judith sports a multi-tiered, high-waisted, pale green skirt clasped with an extraordinary girdle. My initial attention is given over to the elegant girdle studded with cameos and the partially unhooked high-waisted skirt. The former is, of course, new in Judith iconography. I believe that Vasari is the first artist to incorporate the cameo so prominently in this theme, while Artemisia Gentileschi transports this ornament to its highest artistic presentation.

  • 19 Silvia Malaguzzi, Oro, gemme e gioielli (Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2007), p. 313; also James David (...)

21The cameo, jewelry historians relate, is a symbol of transformation signified by its own transformation from shell to cameo.19 Worn as an amulet or a talisman, the cameo was understood to reveal characteristics of the wearer; for example, the cameo of Apollo and Marsyas on Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Girl (1480–85) identifies the wearer’s love of music. In the case of Vasari’s Judith, there are two distinctive presentations of cameos: first as noted on the elegant girdle and second on the left (and ostensibly the right) shoulder medallions. While the horizontal ovals on the girdle appear to depict nude male figures resting on their sides like the personifications of rivers, the shoulder medallion provides an immediate visual reference to the classical connectives of Donatello’s bronze. The figure is that of a woman holding her shield with her right hand and allowing it to rest against her right leg as her left hand is raised as if to strike at either her enemy or her hunted prey. While there is no visible weapon, there are direct visual analogies between Vasari’s Judith and Donatello’s references to Athena and Artemis.

18.4. Giorgio Vasari, Judith and Holofernes, ca. 1554. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis. Photo credit: Saint Louis Art Museum, Friends Fund and funds given in honor of Betty Greenfield Grossman.

22However, the more direct visual quotations retain a connection with the classical world through the influence of Michelangelo’s fresco of the Libyan Sibyl (Fig. 18.5) from the Sistine Chapel ceiling. This classical prophetess sits across the ceiling from her Hebraic counterpart, Jeremiah, as they frame the center episode of the Separation of the Light from the Dark. This is an appropriate partnership as the Libyan Sibyl prophesied the ”Coming of the day when that which is hidden shall be revealed.” Initially interpreted as a reference to Alexander the Great as the conqueror and ruler of Egypt, the Church Fathers understood it as foretelling Christ as the ”Light of the World.”

18.5. Michelangelo, Libyan Sibyl, 1515. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

  • 20 As noted by Jerome, ”… et discriminavit crinem capitis sui …” (Jdt 10:3). Douay reads, ”… and plai (...)

23Michelangelo’s sibyl – clearly inspired by the powerful movement and dimensionality of Hellenistic sculptures, such as the Belvedere torso – is seated, like Vasari’s Judith, with her back turned toward the audience. Further, both women have naked shoulders and upper backs to emphasize their muscularity and their freedom of movement. Similarly, both wear that high-waisted skirt which is unhooked above the girdle, thereby drawing attention to this section of the painting. The elegant coiffures of braided and bound blonde hair provide another visual connector between the Christian Judith and the classical world.20

From Father to Daughter: Judith in the Paintings of Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi

  • 21 Consultation with Scarisbrick, 30 April 2008.
  • 22 There are four versions by Orazio – the earliest in the Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo; the best-known ve (...)

24The jewelry historian Diana Scarisbrick noted that the inclusion of jewelry in a painting is fundamentally for the purpose of calling the viewer’s eyes to that object and then from there to the activity of the wearer.21 Orazio Gentileschi, the father of the more famous Artemisia, painted several versions of the Judith story, including variations on the theme of Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes.22 Present in the Wadsworth and the Vatican versions of this theme is a gold and possibly cameo bracelet visible and partially wrapped in the upturned and blood-stained cuff of Judith’s right sleeve. Orazio’s Judith sports a gold hoop earring with a pearl drop in her left ear, an obvious visual reference to the painting of Judith by Caravaggio, whose work is also quoted by Artemisia.

25Two of Artemisia Gentileschi’s five versions of the theme of Judith include significant visual referencing to her ”ornaments” and highlight the diminishment of Judith’s presentation as God’s faithful female warrior. Although these two paintings were completed after the Council of Trent and its eventualformal inclusion of the Book of Judith in the Vulgate in 1546, Judith continued to garner the attention and interest of artists and patrons. As with other biblical women, Judith became an identifying topos for the portraits of noble women, as well as an exemplum of moral virtue or of the cunning woman.

  • 23 Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 324.

26Artemisia painted two powerfully dramatic renderings of Judith Slaying Holofernes, the first version in 1612–13, now in the collection of the Capodimonte in Naples, and the second in 1620, now in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence (Fig. 18.6). One of the clear distinctions between these two versions is that Judith wears no jewelry in the Capodimonte painting, while she has an intriguing bracelet in the Uffizi canvas. Taking her cue from the great master of the Italian Baroque, Caravaggio, Artemisia paints two images of terrifying realism and psychological terror as we see Judith driving her sword through Holofernes’s neck. This activity is vividly highlighted in the Uffizi painting as the blood explodes from his neck onto Judith’s bodice and the bracelet on her left forearm.23

18.6. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca. 1620. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; (left) detail of the same showing Judith’s left lower arm with cameo bracelet. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).

  • 24 From my interviews with Scarisbrick, 30 April 2008, and specialists in the making of cameos in Ven (...)
  • 25 Garrard, Artemisia, p. 324.

27Both jewelry historians and makers of cameos24 commented, upon seeing a reproduction of Artemisia’s painting, on the unique nature of what the art historian Mary Garrard identifies as Judith’s ”delicate bracelet” (Fig. 18.6).25 Of the three cameos facing the viewer, two display partially clear figures who I believe are female, given both the shapes and postures of their bodies. The middle cameo portrays a female figure positioned at mid-stride holding a bow while the lower cameo incorporates another female figure striding forward with raised left arm and an animal at her feet. Clearly, both depictions are of figures in the midst of an action paralleling Judith, who was in the midst of slaying Holofernes. Unfortunately, the visual evidence is not clear enough to affirm these as depictions of Athena and Artemis, Judith’s classical ancestors, along with Judith, as prototypes of the Virgin Mary.

  • 26 Garrard notes a visual and verbal pun on the names Artemis and Artemisia (p. 327); however, I thin (...)

28Further, the unseen segments of the cameo bracelet have been suggestedas containing the images of Judith’s masculine counterparts – Perseus holding the head of Medusa and David holding the head of Goliath. However, I want to suggest that the entire series of cameos on the bracelet are depictions of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, who is a prototype of the Virgin Mary, and an obvious reference to both Judith and to the painter.26 The significance of this bracelet – both in its imagery and its placement on Judith’s forearm – was signaled by the spray of Holofernes’s blood forward across Judith’s arm, creating an arc paralleling the curvature of the cameo bracelet. This placement and the cameo motifs are unique to Artemisia’s iconography of Judith.

29While Artemisia painted variations on the theme of Judith and Her Maidservant, the most interesting version is in the Galleria Palatina of the Palazzo Pitti dating from 1613–14 (Fig. 18.7). The two conspirators, Judith and Abra, stand facing each other and almost as polar opposites within what Garrard characterizes as an image of ”classic restraint.” The maidservant in the foreground, back turned to the viewer, basket with the exposed severed head slung on her left hip, the bodice of her garment partially unlaced under her left arm, and her head covered by an elaborately twisted covering, turns to her left as her mistress’s left hand steadies her shoulder. Elegantly garbed in gold-trimmed dark velvets, Judith stands resolutely in the dark background.

18.7. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith with Her Maidservant, ca. 1613–14. Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence; (bottom left) detail of the same showing cameo ornament (brooch?) in Judith’s hair; (bottom right) detail of the same showing sword hilt with head of Medusa. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).

30The lace trim of her white linen under-blouse is visible through her low neckline as the sleeves and cuff protrude from under the enormous sleeve of her garment. The red lining of her sleeve is contrasted with the white linen and lace-trimmed blouse, and calls attention to that which fills the space between Judith’s right hand, clasped tightly around the hilt of the sword that rests dangerously on her shoulder. The pommel of Judith’s sword displays an open-mouthed, screaming head of the Medusa in apparent contrast to the calm, severed head in Abra’s basket (Fig. 18.7). The two ”heads” rest like reversed mirror images on top of each other; however, should Judith lower her sword in a backward swing, the female monster and the male general would then be positioned face to face.

  • 27 Garrard, Artemisia, p. 324.

31The strong diagonal line created by the upturned white sleeve of Abra’s blouse leads the viewer’s eye past Judith’s sword to her head, where once again a pearl drop on a gold hoop earring hangs from her right ear. Just above this single earring, and paralleling it, is another teardrop pearl dangling from the cameo on Judith’s braided hair (Fig. 18.7). As with the other items of jewelry discussed in this essay, the cameo is placed, as Scarisbrick stated, to draw our attention. Given her classical foremothers, Judith’s head is the seat of wisdom, so like Athena she stands guard here and protects her faithful servant. She has successfully completed the first phases of her plan, but to execute their escape she needs to keep her wits about her. As Garrard has noted, there are visual parallels between this Judith’s profile and demeanor to that of Michelangelo’s David.27

  • 28 Oro, gemme e gioielli, p. 86.
  • 29 Interview, 30 April 2008. I note that her response was immediate as I handed her a detail photogra (...)

32At least one reference work on jewelry has indicated that the figure depicted on Judith’s cameo is that of David,28 while Scarisbrick believed the figure to be that of Mars Ultor.29 As with the cameos on her bracelet, this figure is partially clear. Without doubt, it is a male figure, standing at attention as he holds his lance in his outwardly extended right hand and his shield in his lowered left hand so that it leans against his leg. There is an undecipherable object or markings by his left foot. While some see this image as that of David slaying Goliath, I read the body depicted as too mature to be the young David but rather as one of Judith’s classical forefathers. Her wearing of this cameo extends the amulet or talismanic properties of this jewelry, for Judith garners both association and strength from the man in the cameo as they both stand in readiness. While the ”deed is done,” Judith and Abra are not yet in the clear, and this positioning in the painting suggests the dramatic possibility that they will be discovered before they have made good their escape from Holofernes’s tent.

Concluding Thoughts

  • 30 I am grateful to Erika Langmuir, Emerita Head of Education, the National Gallery, London, for our (...)

33The figure of Judith and her costuming undergo significant symbolic and cultural metamorphoses in her journey through Christian art. Like her scriptural sisters, particularly Eve, Salomé, and Mary Magdalene, she garners multiple personae and iconographies in her afterlife in the arts and popular culture. She becomes a metaphor and thereby also a lightning rod for the cultural perceptions of the independent Jewish woman, especially in the works of late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century artists. Donatello’s Judith and her derivatives wear symbolic armor as the frivolous luxury of jewelry is transformed into the armor of chastity, righteousness, and fear of the Lord.30

Notes

1 I acknowledge all those libraries, museums, and archives that graciously opened doors, files, archival photographs, and other research materials as indicated in specific endnotes. I thank Maja B. Häderli, Kunsthistorisches Institute in Florence, for her assistance in May 2008.

2 Alexander Roberts (ed.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1950), I, p. 20, as cited in Elena Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology in the Renaissance Iconography of Judith,” in Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari (eds.), Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 63. Italics are mine.

3 Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ”Virgin/Virginity,” in Helene Roberts (ed.), Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography (Chicago, IL: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998), 2, pp. 899–906.

4 I am grateful to Dr. Olof Brandt, Secretary, Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology, Rome, for my research in the Wilpert Archives with Dr. Giorgio Nestori, Librarian and Prefect of the Wilpert Archives, 27 May 2008.

5 See Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 42, referencing Jerome’s translation of Jdt 16:26.

6 Jdt 10:4 as cited in Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology in the Renaissance Iconography of Judith,” p. 45. This discussion in Jerome’s translation is intriguing given his sermons, texts, and letters to women, such as ”Letter to Eustochium” detailing the proper modes of dress for ”Christian women.”

7 Douay reads: ”I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

8 Giorgione’s Judith (1500–1504: Hermitage, Saint Petersburg) parallels Mary as the Second Eve with Judith who stands with her left foot atop Holofernes’s decapitated head.

9 Edgar Wind, ”Donatello’s Judith: A Symbol of Sanctimonia,” The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, 1 (1937), pp. 62–63.

10 Ciletti, ”Patriarchal Ideology,” p. 68, citing the translation in Robert Klein and Henri Zerner (eds.), Italian Art (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), p. 41.

11 Douay translation of mitram (Jdt 10:3) is ”bonnet.”

12 For example, the lid from the late third-century child’s sarcophagus #31503 in the Museo Pio Cristiano, Musei Vaticani. Archival photographs from the 1988 cleaning confirmed that the disk is empty; consultation with Dr. Angela Busemi, Photographic Archives of the Comune di Firenze Servizio Musei, on 20 May 2008.

13 Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane, ”The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!...Images of Judith,” in Doug Adams and Diane Apostolos-Cappadona (eds.), Art as Religious Studies (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1987), p. 85.

14 Federico Della Valle, Judit (1627), (1978 trans., 3.4.431 as cited by Elena Ciletti, ” ‘Gran Macchina è Bellezza.’ Looking at the Gentileschi Judiths,” in Mieke Bal (ed.), The Artemisia Files (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 69. Her translation reads, ”Beauty as a great war machine (machination)” and thereby identifies Judith as Christianity’s female warrior.

15 Apostolos-Cappadona, ”The Lord has struck him down,” pp. 89–91.

16 Moshe Barasch, ”The Crying Face,” Artibus et Historiae, 15 (1987), pp. 21–36.

17 I am grateful for the research privileges and conversation with Dr. Anna Maria De Strobel, Curator for Medieval, Modern, and Byzantine Art, Pinacoteca, Musei Vaticani, 28 May 2008.

18 I examined this painting accompanied by Judith W. Mann, Curator of EuropeanPaintings, Saint Louis Art Museum, 9 April 2008. I thank her for insightful comments, permission to research in archival files, and the references dispatched later.

19 Silvia Malaguzzi, Oro, gemme e gioielli (Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2007), p. 313; also James David Draper, ”Cameo Appearances,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, LXV.4 (Spring 2008).

20 As noted by Jerome, ”… et discriminavit crinem capitis sui …” (Jdt 10:3). Douay reads, ”… and plaited the hair of her head. …” (Jdt 10:3).

21 Consultation with Scarisbrick, 30 April 2008.

22 There are four versions by Orazio – the earliest in the Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo; the best-known version in the Wadsworth Atheneum; a copy in the Pinacoteca, Musei Vaticani; and an undated version in a private collection.

23 Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 324.

24 From my interviews with Scarisbrick, 30 April 2008, and specialists in the making of cameos in Venice and Florence, May 2008.

25 Garrard, Artemisia, p. 324.

26 Garrard notes a visual and verbal pun on the names Artemis and Artemisia (p. 327); however, I think of the ideal widow Artemisia as the referent for the artist’s name and as an identifying parallel with Judith. See the entry ”Artemisia” in Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Encyclopedia of Women in Religious Art (New York: Continuum, 1996), p. 26.

27 Garrard, Artemisia, p. 324.

28 Oro, gemme e gioielli, p. 86.

29 Interview, 30 April 2008. I note that her response was immediate as I handed her a detail photograph.

30 I am grateful to Erika Langmuir, Emerita Head of Education, the National Gallery, London, for our consultation on the female hero and jewelry in Christian art, 29 May 2008.

Table des illustrations

Légende 18.1. Judith’s upper body and right hand with sword from Donatello, Judith and Holofernes, 1457–64. Palazzo della Signoria, Florence, Italy. Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 700k
Légende 18.2. Athena Armed as Athena Parthenos, Third century b.c.e. Musée du Louvre MR285, Paris. Photo credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 425k
Légende 18.3. Michelangelo, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1509–11. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, pendentive fresco; (left) detail of the same. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 853k
Légende 18.4. Giorgio Vasari, Judith and Holofernes, ca. 1554. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis. Photo credit: Saint Louis Art Museum, Friends Fund and funds given in honor of Betty Greenfield Grossman.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 621k
Légende 18.5. Michelangelo, Libyan Sibyl, 1515. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 752k
Légende 18.6. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca. 1620. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; (left) detail of the same showing Judith’s left lower arm with cameo bracelet. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Légende 18.7. Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith with Her Maidservant, ca. 1613–14. Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence; (bottom left) detail of the same showing cameo ornament (brooch?) in Judith’s hair; (bottom right) detail of the same showing sword hilt with head of Medusa. Photo credit: G.E.M.A. (Grande Enciclopedia Multimediale dell’Arte).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1017/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 887k

Auteur

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona is Adjunct Professor of Religious Art and Cultural History, Georgetown University. Her research, teaching, and publications are centered on the interconnections of art, gender, and religion, and discuss issues such as the human figure, the body, and iconoclasm. She has a particular interest in the iconology of biblical women, including Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Judith. Guest curator for ”In Search of Mary Magdalene: Images and Traditions” (2002), she coordinates the curatorial team for ”Salome Unveiled” (2012) for Amsterdam and New York.