• Hardik Gohil

A Widow with a Sword!

This article is in reference to an Artwork capturing a biblical event of the Assyrian era, probably painted in the year 1599 by Caravaggio.


According to the texts, the Assyrian army was well determined to siege the Jewish city of Bethulia which was located on a Summit of a Mountain, which was, in a way, a Strength for the Israelites, as they could see each and every movement of the enemy from the summit of the Hill. Unfortunately, the Assyrian troops took control of the springs at the bottom of that Hill, which was the only source of water for the Israelites, compelling them to panic and suffer from thirst and Hunger for weeks.


At this point, comes into the picture, the Widow, the courageous, Judith of Bethulia, who deceived Holofernes, the commanding general of the Assyrian Army, by seducing him and becoming his intimate friend, eventually beheading him in his tent while he was drunk and probably out of his senses.



Let us start with the Observation:


- Caravaggio clearly used color contrast to focus on Judith, the Widow, appearing to be in her brightest attire.


- The muscular tension around her forearms shows how brutally she is engaged in beheading the Commander in General, Holofernes.


- Holofernes appears to be half naked, having a well-toned muscular body, which indicates that he obviously engaged himself in strenuous physical activities to keep himself fit and muscular, as a Commander in General of the Assyrian Army:



- Holofernes lying half exposed, the other half covered with the bed sheet, probably indicates that he was ready to sleep or was already asleep, having no chance to retaliate, without a clue, that her intimate friend is silently preparing herself for this brutal act.


- A frown on Judith's face appear to me as an Expression of Ambiguity, as if she is not sure, if that is what she really wants, a severed head of Holofernes:


- Holofernes looking at his killer in despair with his half severed head, blood spewing out, the blade almost ready to rip his windpipe, his mouth open, probably choking:



- The aged Maid travelled all the way with her to the enemy's camp, risking her own life, probably she was not afraid of death, just like the Widow. May be she was not afraid of death because she knew, that she would not live much longer anyway.

But one thing is still unclear, why would Judith prefer an aged Maid to accompany her, to do such a risky task?

Was she skilled enough to swiftly sneak in through all the obstacles, despite of her age?


- The expressions of the aged Maid, her eyes popping out, as if they were craving to see this violent act since months, may be to avenge the death of her beloved Children, grandchildren because of thirst and starvation. The rage in her eyes could say it all!

Ready with a piece of cloth in her hands, to wrap the severed head of Holofernes and take it back with them as a symbol of victory!!



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