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This painting shows the Jewish heroine Judith, whose story is told in the Apocrypha of the Bible. This grieving widow put on her best clothes and seduced Holofernes, the officer commanding the troops who were violently threatening her fellow citizens. Once he had succumbed to her advances, she beheaded him with a sword. She is depicted here, in all her finery, displaying Holofernes' head in triumph. The detail in this painting is exquisite, particularly in the background landscape and Judith's elaborate costume, both of which relate to where and when the work was made. The painting bears a serpent trademark which was used by Cranach as a mark of authenticity on work originating from his workshop. Many paintings of female figures, in formats similar to this, originated from Cranach's family workshop, but this is a particularly impressive example.
Judith with the Head of Holofernes
oil on panel
H 76.7 x W 55.8 cm
purchased by the Trustees of the Burrell Collection with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund, 1995