Sunday, May 26, 2024

Judith Slaying Holofernes

Written By Malavika Padaki (Grade 12)

The book of Judith in the Holy Testament holds the inspiration for the art piece, ‘Judith Slaying Holefernes’. Judith, Holofernes, and her maidservant are the characters of this piece, with Judith being the crux. It depicts the most climactic part of the book, showcasing the assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes by the Israelite heroine Judith. In her cobalt blue dress with gold accents, she holds the head of Holofernes in one hand and a dagger piercing through his neck in another. This piece is highly regarded by feminists as showcasing ‘the power of women’ theme. They have interpreted it as a revenge art piece following Artemesia’s rape committed by Agostino Tassi in 1611. This painting is also seen as an achievement of strong women.

Even with stories of strength that allow mothers to lift cars to save their children, two women are required to hold him down. This is what I distinguished at first notice. The dagger having cut through his Adam’s apple and through his nape is what makes this scene gruesome to look at. It is, however, intentional. It is necessary for us to feel uncomfortable to see the blood dripping down the side of the bed, for it was a similar skin-crawling experience for Artemisia. This painting not only brings you into Artemisia’s mindset, but it also brings you into the action that corresponds with this mindset. 

This painting is not about men.

Rape is associated with women as a shame tactic. More stable-minded individuals associate it with men to showcase how evil can be personified. 

Rarely is life after assault talked about. Pain, revenge, anger, and grief. Judith’s eyes remain composed; however, her soul screams through her actions. What I enjoy about the piece is how Judith is at the crux. It speaks about the actions that far too many women have to bear without incorporating the sorrow they have to face. Assault is defined as a linear experience of grief and morbidity that occurs all too frequently. It reduces women to victims, almost infantilizing them. Rarely is the rage after an assault talked about. The desecration of a body requires the utmost form of vengeance. This painting showcases the achievement of revenge. Sorrow turns into anger. That is why I am inspired by it. Anger is an emotion that is never talked about. It is shunned. However, it is sometimes justifiable. Men came into the world and poisoned it with cruelty. Women are allowed to use a gun instead of an antidote to save themselves. 

Some too many men commit crimes such as these for the reason of sociopathy. 

Some too many women go through it to be considered out of the ordinary. 

For the evil that resides in a man to commit this crime, there must be a determination in women to break apart from it. 

This painting reminds me of a quote by Fiona Apple: “How much strength does it take to hurt a little girl? How much strength do you think it takes for the girl to get over it? Which one of them do you think is stronger?”

Remember that healing doesn’t need to be wholesome if the act committed against you makes you “dirty.” If society believes you to be dirty, then what is the harm in vengeance? Let it be a crime against the state. It will be your act of recuperation. 

Featured Image Credit – Khan Academy


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