About This Artwork

Jan Sanders van Hemessen
Netherlandish, active c. 1519–1556

Judith, c. 1540

Oil on panel
39 x 30 3/8 in. (99.1 x 77.2 cm)

Wirt D. Walker Fund, 1956.1109

For saving the Jewish people from the armies of the Assyrian general Holofernes, the biblical heroine Judith was viewed as a model of civic virtue in the Renaissance. The beautiful widow cut off the head of the drunken and besotted general after willingly entering his camp. Jan van Hemessen's interpretation of Judith as a powerful nude stresses her courage and also reflects contemporary ambivalence toward the seductive wiles she used against Holofernes; the dangerous power of women was a recurrent and ironic theme in the art of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance in norther Europe.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Robert Lebel, “Une ‘Judith’ de Jan van Hemessen,” Journal de l’amateur d’art 10, 101 (1956), p. 3 (ill.).

Hans Huth, “A Mannerist Judith for the Art Institute,” AIC Quarterly 51, 1 (1957), pp. 2 (ill.), 3.

S.V., “Nuovi acquisti all’Art Institute,” Emporium 63 (1957), pp. 185–86 (ill.).

Helen Comstock, “A Flemish Mannerist Judith,” Connoisseur 140 (1957), p. 139 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), pp. 214–15.

Giorgio T. Faggin, La pittura ad Anversa nel Cinquecento (Florence, 1968), pl. 111.

Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey, Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands, 1500 to 1600 (Harmondsworth, 1969), p. 198, pl. 183.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (London, 1970), pp. 255 (ill.), 287.

Paul Wescher, “Jan van Hemessen und Jan van Amstel,” Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, n.s., 12 (1970), pp. 42–43, fig. 6.

Jan Bialostocki, “La gamba sinistra della Giuditta: Il quadro di Giorgione nella storia del tema,” in Giorgione e l’umanesimo veneziano, ed. Rodolfo Pallucchini (Florence, 1981), pp. 216–17; trans. and repr. in Jan Bialostocki, The Message of Images: Studies in the History of Art (Vienna, 1988), pp. 126, 261.

Burr Wallen, Jan van Hemessen: An Antwerp Painter between Reform and Counter-Reform (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1983), pp. 2, 107–08, 309–10, no. 36, fig. 121.

Peter C. Sutton, A Guide to Dutch Art in America (Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986), p. 49, fig. 65.

Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988), p. 21 (ill.).

Robert Genaille, review of Wallen, Jan van Hemessen: An Antwerp Painter between Reform and Counter-Reform, in Revue Belge d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art 58 (1989), p. 138.

Corinna Höper, Katalog der Gemälde des 14. bis 18. Jahrhunderts in der Kunsthalle Bremen (Bremen, 1990), pp. 167–68.

Guy Bauman and Walter A. Liedtke, Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America (Antwerp, 1992), p. 339, no. 264 (ill.).

Burr Wallen, “Jan Sanders van Hemessen,” in The Dictionary of Art, vol. 14 (New York, 1996), p. 380, fig. 1.

Margarita Stocker, Judith, Sexual Warrior: Women and Power in Western Culture (New Haven, 1998), pp. 18, 112, fig. 13.

Andreas Kreul, Doppelgänger: Repliken und “andere Originale” zu Werken aus der Sammlung der Kunsthalle Bremen, exh. cat. (Kunsthalle Bremen, 1999), pp. 18–21, 29, 56 (ill.).

Ownership History

Possibly Steven Wils (died 1628), Antwerp [possibly no. 5 in his estate inventory; see J. Denucé, The Antwerp Art-Galleries: Inventories of the Art-Collections in Antwerp in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Antwerp, 1932, p. 47]. Probably Marquis de la Pallu, Paris [according to Huth 1957, p. 3; this information, which must come from the dealer Robert Lebel, could not be verified]. Robert Lebel, Paris, 1956; sold to the Art Institute, 1956.

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