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The story is taken from the apocryphal book of Judith. The action takes place in the tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes, which is lit by two candles. The Jewish widow, Judith, and her maidservant, Abra, saved the besieged city of Bethulia by crossing enemy lines and killing the Assyrian leader. Above the entrance to the tent is a hanging in the form of a frieze, with putti and a leopard, symbolising the helplessness of the powerful who give in to love, whilst the precious vessels with wine and fruit pay tribute to Holofernes’s hedonistic lifestyle. The object above the meticulously painted still life on the right is difficult to identify in its present state; it is presumably a piece of armour or a shield. This is the artist’s first depiction of an interior scene using artificial light, in which the violence and drama of the event is enhanced by the strongly localised flickering candlelight and is contrasted with the domesticity of the interior.

English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House



Judith Slaying Holofernes




oil on tinned copper


H 24.2 x W 18.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

management transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum to English Heritage, 2004

Work type



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Normally on display at

English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, Greater London W1J 7NT England

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