Overview

The story of Judith and Holofernes comes from the Old Testament Apocrypha, sacred texts that were excluded from the Bible. Besieged by the Assyrians, the beautiful Israelite widow Judith went into the enemy camp of Holofernes to win his confidence. During a great banquet Holofernes became drunk, and later in his tent Judith seized his sword and cut off his head. Their leader gone, the enemy was soon defeated by the Israelites. This ancient heroine was understood in the Renaissance as a symbol of civic virtue, of intolerance of tyranny, and of a just cause triumphing over evil. The moralizing subject was a favorite of the artist.

Judith is portrayed as if she were a classical statue. The drapery folds of her costume, a clinging white gown, fall in sculptural forms, and her stance, the twisting contrapposto prevalent in Renaissance figures, derives from ancient models. The heroine is serene and calm, detached from the gruesome scene as her victim's head is dropped into a sack held by the servant.

Mantegna was trained in the Paduan workshop of Squarcione, but he was strongly influenced by the Florentine sculptor Donatello. He married the daughter of the Venetian artist Jacopo Bellini, and was influenced by his work, as well as that of his brother-in-law Giovanni Bellini.

Inscription

by later hand, on reverse on gesso surface: AN: MONTEGNA

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Possibly King Charles I of England; by exchange to William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke [1580-1630], Wilton House, Salisbury, before 1625; by inheritance to his brother, Philip Herbert, 4th earl of Pembroke [1584-1649/1650]; by inheritance to his son, Philip Herbert, 5th earl of Pembroke [1620/1621-1669]; by inheritance to his son, William Herbert, 6th earl of Pembroke [1640-1674]; by inheritance to his half-brother, Philip Herbert, 7th earl of Pembroke [1652/1653-1683]; by inheritance to his brother, Thomas Herbert, 8th earl of Pembroke [1656-1732/1733]; by inheritance to his son, Henry Herbert, 9th earl of Pembroke [1693-1749/1750];[1] by inheritance to his son, Henry Herbert, 10th earl of Pembroke [1734-1794]; by inheritance to his son, George Augustus Herbert, 11th earl of Pembroke [1759-1827]; by inheritance to his son, Robert Henry Herbert, 12th earl of Pembroke [1791-1862]; by inheritance to his nephew, George Robert Charles Herbert, 13th early of Pembroke [1850-1895]; by inheritance to his brother, Sidney Herbert, 14th earl of Pembroke [1853-1913]; by inheritance to his son, Reginald Herbert, 15th earl of Pembroke [1880-1960]; (his sale, Sotheby's, London, 5-6 and 9-10 July 1917, 4th day, no. 542 [sold privately]); listed July to September 1917 in (Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London) stock, owned jointly with (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); on approval to Carl W. Hamilton [1886-1967], New York, by 1920, and returned 1921;[2] purchased c. 1923 by Joseph E. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;[3] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase by funds of the Estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1857
Art Treasures of the United Kingdom: Paintings by Ancient Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Museum of Oriental Art, Manchester, 1857, no. 96.
1894
Exhibition of Venetian Art, The New Gallery, London, 1894-1895, no. 228 (no. 125 of small catalogue).
1913
Second National Loan Exhibition. Woman and Child in Art, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1913-1914, no. 41A.
1920
Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
1924
Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings in the Possession of Notable American Collectors, Duveen Brothers, New York, 1924, no. 22 (no. 40, as Judith Before the Tent of Holofernes, in illustrated 1926 version of catalogue).
1930
Exhibition of Italian Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1930, no. 186, as Judith before the Tent of Holofernes (no. 187 in commemorative catalogue published 1931; not in souvenir catalogue).
1938
Exhibition of Venetian Painting from the Fifteenth Century through the Eighteenth Century, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1938, no. 42, repro.
1939
An Exhibition of Italian Paintings and Drawings, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March-April 1939, no. 26.
1939
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculptures from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, May-October 1939, no. 232, repro.
1979
Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, no. 17, repro.
1992
Andrea Mantegna, Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, no. 140, repro., as Judith with the Head of Holofernes after Andrea Mantegna (shown only in London).
1992
Il Giardino di San Marco: Maestri e Compagni del Giovane Michelangelo, Casa Buonarroti, Florence, 1992, no. 4, color repro.
2005
Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005-2006, not in brochure.
2008
Mantegna, Musée dy Louvre, Paris, 2008-2009, no. 72, repro.
2009
Tullio Lombardo and Venetian High Renaissance Sculpture, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009, not in catalogue.

Bibliography

1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 162, repro.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 65, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 65, repro.).
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 77, repro.
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 6.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 58, color repro., as Judith with the Head of Holofernes.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 10, repro.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 72-74, repro.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 22, repro.
1959
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Early Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Three in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 38, color repro.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 23.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 94, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 82
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:70, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 72, repro.
1968
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 25-26, fig. 57.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 214, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:296-297, II:pl. 210
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 114, no. 91, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 248, repro.
1992
Boorsch, Suzanne, et al. Andrea Mantegna. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. London and Milan, 1992: 140.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 26, repro.
1995
Halpine, Susana M. "An Investigation of Artists' Materials Using Amino Acid Analysis: Introduction of the One-Hour Extraction Method." Studies in the History of Art 51 (1995): 4-53, repro. no. 12.
1998
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. "Beheading/Decapitation (Acheiropaiec Heads)." In Helene E. Roberts, ed. Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:122.
1998
Faxon, Alicia Craig. "Fatal Woman/Femme Fatale." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:319.
2003
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 435-443, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 36-37, no. 25, color repro.
2008
Allen, Denise, with Peta Motture. Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze. Exh. cat. The Frick Collection, New York. London, 2008: 29-30, 39 n. 84, fig. II.8.
2009
Schumacher, Andreas, et al. Botticelli: Likeness, Myth, Devotion. Exh. cat. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2009: 248, fig. 130.
2011
Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 214, fig. 5.3, 312.

Technical Summary

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