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Work of the Week: Judith

Jan Sanders van Hemessen was a prominent Flemish Renaissance painter; a member of the Romanists, Hemessen and his contemporaries were deeply influenced by Italian Renaissance painting. Works such as Judith played into Hemessen’s gravitations toward religious subjects. Judith was held as a heroine and a model of civic virtue in the Renaissance. Her bravery and tenacity guided her to behead the Assyrian general Holofernes and therefore save the Jewish people from the Assyrian armies. Hemessen’s interpretation of Judith as a powerful nude stresses her courage, and her near-eclipsing of Holofernes on the canvas space emphasizes Judith’s heroism over Holofernes’ downfall.

See Judith and other German and Netherlandish works in Gallery 207.


Jan Sanders van Hemessen. Judith, about 1549. Wirt D. Walker Fund.