Judit at Holofernes Banquet

Rembrandt was one of the leading Dutch painters. He was born in Leidern, but later moved to Amsterdam, where today there is a museum entirely devoted to him. He lived the first part of his life quietly in the Dutch capital. He married Saskia, who was from a wealthy family, and they had a son, Titus. But his wife died young and Rembrandt’s life became more difficult, and he also had financial problems. Then another woman, Hendrickje, entered his life. She was a former servant, and he painted her many times, just as he had done with Saskia, who sat for this painting here.

Rembrandt’s study of light was one of the milestones in the history of painting, as were his group portraits of local corporations and his self-portraits, which served as lessons for later artists. Unfortunately, the Prado museum holds very few Rembrandt paintings. The war between Holland and Spain, until the former became independent in 1648, meant moving art from Flanders was very difficult to do.

This is a work whose subject matter has been debated, and it is not certain who it represents. It was originally thought to be Artemisia, a Middle Eastern Queen, who was famous for having dedicated a tomb to her husband Mausolus that became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and from which the word “Mausoleum” originates. Artemisia herself wanted to serve as a tomb for her husband, and ordered his ashes to be dissolved in wine and served to her to drink.

However, today the painting is thought to represent the Biblical heroine, Judith, being waited upon by the servants of the Syrian general, Holofernes, prior to the banquet. Legend has it that Judith got Holofernes drunk, in order to invite him into her tent, where she decapitated him and dispplayed his head to his army, who surrendered when they saw it. In the background, her accomplice, an elderly servant woman, can be seen holding a sack that awaits Holofernes’ head.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns