Art Criticism on Artemisia Gentileschi’s: Judith and Maidservant with the head of Holofernes. Christian Hunnel. Description .
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This painting is part of a series of paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi, of her often painted maiden, Judith, accompanied by her maidservant, Abra, as they escape the tent of Holofernes with his severed head in hand. Artemisia Gentileschi’s, “Judith and her Maidservant with the head of Holofernes”, is oil on canvas and perfectly captures the intensity of Judith and Abra as they escape the tent with the severed head of her enemy: Judith’s intense pose and facial expression, and Abra’s look of fear of being caught. Even the title of this piece explains the situation without needlessly elaborating.
When first looking at this piece my attention was drawn to the brightest object in the piece: Judith’s dress, whose vivid color is being amplified by the light of the candle. My eyes then travel to the candle which is lighting up a portion of Judith’s face and hand, and also Abra’s hand and face where she is trying to contain the head of Holofernes in a cloth, (or some other undistinguishable item). The proportion is normal, and the balance of the piece shows the intensity of the situation, (as previously stated on the third slide), and pattern is shown in the pattern of dress and cloth in the folds of the tent. The expression of both the figures also helps to bring the piece together as both Judith and Abra both look concerned and it is obvious to the viewer that the two are working together and have a bond together, (Judith’s face and pose shows intensity, but towards the situation, not towards Abra).
The characters seem to want to run off the canvas and into safety from any possible pursuers. If there was any symbolism in the piece, I would imagine it would be that the head of Holofernes represents tyranny or control, possibly the male dominance over art, and Judith and Abra are the era of women coming to strike a new era of female artists, (Such as it was during the Renaissance era that Artemisia Gentileschi's artwork was viewed as inferior because she was a woman). This piece also seems to show that woman can be as equally strong or lethal as men could be, (In the example of committing a murder then taking the head).
The emphasis and color of this art piece helps me to view it as more of a success than a failure. Others who judge this work should base their judgment off of it’s symbolism and power: The begging of female dominance over art. The diverse story that it portrays only increases its uniqueness. However, several improvements could’ve been made including adding something over Judith’s outstretched hand where there is an empty space, or adding more detail to the space under or around the table.