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Caravaggio. (1571 - 1610) Judith Beheading Holophernes. 1598. 

Oil on canvas. 145 X 195 cm.


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The Judith discovered in Toulouse, France : A Judith of the disciple much more than of the Master Caravaggio… See why…

Caravaggio. (1571 - 1610) Judith Beheading Holophernes. 1598. 
Oil on canvas. 145 X 195 cm.

In the book of Judith of the Old Testament the king of Babylon, sends his Holophernes general to punish the Western nations which refused to join him to make countryside against Medes. Holophernes goes on them and all are subjected, except the Jews. This one besieges them in the town of Bethulie, close to Jerusalem. Judith, in Hebrew : Jewish, widowed pious and of a great beauty, proposes to deliver them. She is introduced by trick into the enemy camp, applicant to have information against his people, and charms Holophernes which invites it under its tent with a banquet during which it drink wine and falls asleep. Judith seizing a sword then slices the head and the envelope in a bag to him, then turns over near her people. The Jews in jubilation then attack the Assyrians, which, private of their chief, flee taken of panic. The scene of Judith decapitating Holophernes inspired much painters baroques. This scene is in extreme cases of 2 major kinds in painting with 16th and 17th centuries. The painting of history and religious painting. We study here the painting allotted to Caravaggio which goes back to 1598 but thanks to the arrows in bottom on the right you will be able to compare it with the painting discovered in Toulouse in 2014 and with an identical painting allotted to Louis Finson Flemish painter born in Bruges about 1575. Formed in this city it goes then about 1600 to Italy, in Rome and in Naples, it’s one of the first Flemish painters influenced by Caravaggio. One finds his trace at the beginning of 1613 in Marseilles where he paints the Resurrection of Lazare for the family of Pierre of Libertat, painting currently in the church of Castle-Gombert. It moves then in Aix. In March 1614 it goes to Arles, It carries out there several works of which the Martyrdom of Etienne saint and Worship of the magi. Louis Finson leaves the city of Arles and undertakes a turn of France while passing by Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Paris. He goes then to Amsterdam and dies in 1617 in this city for some or in Bruges for others. Louis Finson was also merchant of tables: he had in his possession, with the merchant Abraham Vinck, at least 2 paintings of Caravaggio. This double activity of painter and merchant is not astonishing. Within sight of the notoriety of Caravaggio, to allot the paternity of a work to him was the surest means to find a good purchaser. While waiting for the battles of expert which certainly will not delay it is necessary however to note many differences between the painting allotted to Caravaggio and this version of Toulouse. The Judith of Caravaggio is a young person, is equipped with a white shirt maker, she slices the head of Holophernes of an epic which goes to the bottom, the point of the sword is located in bottom on the left. She seems frightened and frightened by her gesture. The maidservant at her side looks at Holophernes with big eyes. The Judith of Toulouse as that of Louis Finson seems older, with a little plumpness (what is the Flemish taste of the time) she is equipped of a black dress. It’s gesture goes to the top, the point of the sword is in top on the left. It seems indifferent so that it makes and looks at the spectator of an cold air and decided. The maidservant is of face and looks at simply her mistress. In the 2 paintings, in top, red draperies recall those of Dead of the Virgin, painted by Caravaggio in 1606, or those of the Madonna to the Rosary (1605-1607). These paintings make it possible to identify the red of Caravaggio much more chechmate and much less luminous than that of Louis Finson and of the painting of Toulouse. A Judith who poses and looks at the painter or the spectator is not at all the manner of Caravaggio. Despite everything that what is aggravating it is that the expert of Toulouse allots office the painting to Caravaggio, affirms that it would have been carried out in Rome between 1604 and 1605 and over-estimates it to 120 Million euros ! But if it is about a painting of Louis Finson it is not worth more than 100.000 euros ! With expert truths to slice ! Not the head of the expert of Toulouse nor of the auctioneer, to slice on the true author of work and the price ! 

The point of view of the spectator is on the hand of Judith close to the geographical center of the painting. The glance of the spectator is attracted by blood and the distinct head. In the second time it details Judith and her maidservant. In continuation the glance goes up. The red of draperies top is a recall of the versed blood of the Holophernes general. 

3 natural points of interest are used. The head of Holophernes is located on the natural point of left lower interest. The shoulder, the face and the arm of Judith are on the 2 natural points of right interests. 
Framing is perfect, it underlines what is important. 

The large downward diagonal delimits 2 spaces. 
The body of Holophernes is located completely under the diagonal of the left side. Judith and her maidservant are above the diagonal on the right-sided. This division of space suggests that Judith remained pure and did not compromise itself with Holophernes.

The principal guiding lines show that Caravaggio used the 2 large diagonals to build its picture.. The direction is always downward but in top the dominant one is from left to right and in bottom from right to left. The downward diagonals induce an idea of fall and forfeiture what is well the case here. 

Details : 

The face represented by Caravaggio shows a frightened Judith, hesitant and nauseated by its gesture. It is not the case of the face of the Judith of Toulouse. 

The maidservant whose face is very wrinkled looks at the gesture of Judith with big eyes.

Light : The work of Caravaggio is lit by a beam of light coming from the left. The characters are detached in the ambient darkness. The artist likes to make alternate the dark zones and the flooded zones of light. 

Colour : Harmonize between hot colours.

Similar paintings : 

Cristofano Allori. Judith. 1613.

Atémisia Gentileschi. Judith Beheading Holophernes.

Valentin of Boulogne. Judith and Holophernes. 1626.

Trophime Bigot. Judith Judith Beheading Holophernes.