Judith and Holofernes in Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Judith and Holofernes (detail), 1508–1512. Fresco,  Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.

This center detail from a larger fresco in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michaelangelo. The scene depicts the Israelite heroine Judith just after she has beheaded the Babylonian general Holofernes. She has placed the head of Holofernes in a basket held by her maidservant and is covering it with a cloth. The full scene depicts the sleeping guards on the left and on the right the body of Holofernes. The story of Judith is both destructive and redemptive, and Michelangelo portrays both aspects with bright soft colors, suggesting an everyday scene. Without a closer look, the women might have a basket of laundry or food on their heads, but on closer inspection, it is clearly a severed head.  

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Judith and Holofernes (detail). Fresco, 1508–1512. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.

A general of Nebuchadnezzar who attacked Israel, according to the Book of Judith, but was ultimately beheaded by Judith.

Of or relating to ancient lower Mesopotamia and its empire centered in Babylon.

Relating to or associated with people living in the territory of the northern kingdom of Israel during the divided monarchy, or more broadly describing the biblical descendants of Jacob.

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