Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1497-1500


Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Donald S. Winstonexpand_more  P.71.187

Not on Viewexpand_more

In this early engraving after a panel painting of the subject by Andrea Mantegna, the beautiful widow Judith is seen in the moments immediately after the murder by decapitation of the Assyrian general Holofernes, who was preparing to destroy Judith's home city of Bethulia. The story is taken from the biblical Book of Judith.

A frequent subject in Early Renaissance art, Mantegna portrays Judith as righteous heroine, who has killed for the greater good of her people. Using her feminine virtues to encourage the general's desire, she gains access to his tent, where she plies him with drink until he passes out, and then severs his head with a sword. As she leaves his tent, she carries the general's head by its hair, while a servant holds open a cloth sack to receive it.

In Italy, Judith could be viewed in the same light as David, the vanquisher of Goliath. Images of both served as warnings against tyrants, and Judith's watchful look here may convey political courage as well.

Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Artist Life
active about 1475 – 1505
Accession Number
Richard S. Davis (MIA director, 1956-59), Minneapolis. Mr. and Mrs. Donald S. Winston, Los Angeles (until 1971, given, December 17, to Mia)
Catalogue Raisonne
H.64.5a (as Zoan Andrea); B.295.1A (as Zoan Andrea); "Andrea Mantegna" 1992 exh., cat. no. 141
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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