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Painting Title Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Collection York Art Gallery
Artist After Allori, Cristofano (Italian painter, 1577-1621)
Date Earliest about 1620
Date Latest possibly about 1900

Judith is depicted standing and holding the head of Holofernes in her left hand and a sword in her right hand; behind her stands her maid. The subject is taken from Judith 10.13: Holofernes was an Assyrian general who was about to destroy the city of Bethulia. A young widow Judith decided to risk her life to save the Israelites: she went with her old servant to Holofernes' camp and surrendered herself. She gained Holofernes' trust and when he passed out after drinking too much, she decapitated him and took away his head.

Cristofano Allori painted his mistress, Maria de Giovanni Mazzafirri, as Judith - their affair also ended bady. The servant in the background is probably a portrait of her mother, and the severed head of Holofernes a portrait of the artist himself. The composition was very popular and painted many times, copied also by the artist himself. The early version, signed and dated 1613, is in the Royal Collection (acquired by Charles I, probably from the Gonzaga collection in Mantua). A later version, also painted by Allori, dated c. 1620, is in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence - that is the version that was a source for all later copies. YORAG : 458 may be either a 17th or 19th century copy.

Current Accession Number YORAG : 458
Subject religion (Judith and Holofernes); figure
Measurements 142.2 x 114.3 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Unknown.
Provenance Dorotheum auction house, Vienna,26th November 1936, lot 217 ('Judith, Kopie nach Allori, Öl auf Leinwand, 140 X 112, unter Glas, in Goldrahmen') for 200 Schillings (;).
Publications York Art Gallery Catalogue - Catalogue of Paintings, Vol. III: English and European 19th and 20th centuries, The Reserve Collection, City of York Art Gallery, York, 1974, p. 95; Oil Paintings in Public Ownership. North Yorkshire, London, 2006, p. 234.
Notes Other later copies of Allori's original are in various collections (Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, Athaeneum in Boston, The Princely Collections Lichtenstein) and appear on the art market (e.g. two versions were sold in New York: one at Sotheby's, 23 January 2003, lot 225, and another at Christie's, 18-19 June 2013, lot 152). Some of the copies are not contemporary, e.g. a version by Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), painted in 1830, in the Princeton University Art Museum.
Rights Owner York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Author Dr Magdalena Łanuszka



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