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Francesco Solimena
Italian, 1657 - 1747

The Triumph of Judith, 1704-1708
Italian Painting
Oil on canvas
38 3/4 x 49 1/4 in. (98.4 x 125.1 cm), without frame

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. James V. Aquavella,  77.109

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About the Object

The subject of Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes was one of the most popular subjects in Christian art of the 1600s and 1700s. The Old Testament story tells how the heroine Judith went to the camp of Holofernes, the Assyrian general who was besieging her town. She dazzled him with her beauty; after pretending to accept his advances, she beheaded him with his own sword while he was in a drunken stupor.

This painting illustrates the moment when Judith displays the trophy of her victory to the citizens she has rescued. In a Christian context, the story of the Jewish heroine represents the triumph of virtue over evil. During the Counter-Reformation, the subject also became a powerful symbol of the Catholic Church's triumph over heresy, or dissent from its teachings. Here, Solimena shows Judith as confident that she has served the will of God. The dramatic lighting, gestures and facial expressions of the figures are intended to appeal to the emotions and inspire the faith that motivated Judith.