This paper is aimed at discussing the painting Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. In particular, it is necessary to show how a dramatic sense is created by the artist. In this case, one can speak primarily about the use of such techniques as chiaroscuro and tenebrism.
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They are based on the sharp contrast between light and dark. Much attention should also be paid to the way in which two women are portrayed by the author. Artemisia Gentileschi focuses on Judith’s emotional struggle. In this way, the artist intensified the dramatic effect producing by this picture. These are the main questions that should be examined more closely.
It should be mentioned that this oil-on-canvas picture was painted in 1625. The work of art is based on the story of Judith, a Jewish widow who killed an Assyrian general Holofernes. He was planning to carry out an attack against the Jews, and he had to be stopped (Davies et al. 392). Judith was able to gain his confidence promising to give valuable information about the plans of Israelites. She beheaded Holofernes at the time, when he was drunk (Davies et al. 392).
This information is important for understanding the themes that Artemisia Gentileschi explores in his work. The title of this painting suggests the action takes place right after the decapitation (Davies et al. 392). One can see Judith gesture at her maidservant who packs the head of Holofernes. Thus, the painter tries to show how Judith and her servant live through these difficult moments. This is one of the details that should be singled out.
One can say that the dramatic effect is achieved in several ways. First of all, the painter relies on such as technique a technique as chiaroscuro which is the sharp contrast of dark and light. By looking at the candlelit room, the viewers can see that Judith and her maidservant have to operate in complete secrecy.
Moreover, they can be captured by the soldiers almost at any moment. Apart from that, one should also speak about such a method as tenebrism which means that darkness becomes almost the dominant part of a picture. This is one of the details that can be distinguished.
Moreover, one should speak about the rich palette of Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting. The author uses a vibrant yellow color which intensifies the contrast between light and dark. This approach is emulated by other artists who rely on chiaroscuro technique. It helps Artemisia Gentileschi to underline the sense of insecurity that these women struggle with.
Moreover, Artemisia Gentileschi focuses on the viewer’s attention on the complexity of Judith’s emotions. Her face is half hidden in the shade, and in this way, the painter might have tried to show the intensity of inner struggle within this character. In this way, the artist creates the sense of mystery.
The painters makes the viewers think about the conflicting feelings that could engulf Judith at that moment. On the one hand, she was able to save her people. Yet, at the same time, she had to commit a cold-blooded murder. This is the main ideas that she has to grapple with. It is difficult for her to reconcile these ideas.
Additionally, Artemisia Gentileschi does not want to emphasize the idea that Judith has just killed a person. Moreover, Holofernes’s head is almost hidden from view. However, a person’s glance is inevitably attracted to this horrible object. One can see that the maidservant does not want to look it.
Artemisia Gentileschi does not want to produce a long-lasting impression on viewers by portraying the scenes of violence. Instead, she wants to examine the aftermath of these events. This approach is also important for increasing the dramatic sense. Nevertheless, the image of Holofernes does not occupy the central part in this work of art. This is one of the details that can be identified, and it is important for the analysis of this painting.
It should be mentioned that Judith has been described in various artworks, and many of them were created during the Baroque period. However, Artemisia Gentileschi succeeded in portraying the emotions of this woman who has to sacrifice her moral integrity in order to save the Jewish people. This is one of her main achievements. This is why this painting is often singled out by art critics.
Overall, it is possible to argue that Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting is a great example of the Baroque art. The main strength of this picture is that the author is able to achieve a dramatic sense without focusing on the scene of beheading.
Although Artemisia Gentileschi does not depict the scene of decapitation, she prompts viewers to emphasize with this character who has to struggle with the idea that she has become a murderer. By using such artistic technique as chiaroscuro and tenebrism, the author manages to increase the dramatic effect. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.
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Davies, Penelope, Frima Hofrichter, Joseph Jacobs, Ann Roberts, and David Simon. Janson’s Basic History of Western Art, New York: Pearson, 2013. Print.