Judith was a biblical Jewish heroine who used her beauty to seduce, then decapitate, the commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army, Holofernes, and thus save her people. The book of Judith is included in the Old Testament Apocrypha.
Executed in the last decade of the artist's long life, this interpretation of Judith's story shows Titian's extraordinary freedom of style. Not only has the artist altered the traditional iconography of the subject by replacing the old woman attendant with a black page, but the lower part of the picture displays the loose and broken brushstrokes typical of Titian's late pictures. While the contrast between the expressionist face of the giant and the smooth texture of Judith's is jarring, it also reinforces the disparity between the heroine and her conquest, as if femininity has won over roughness and violence.
Artist Titian, Italian, ca.1488-1576
  • Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Date ca. 1570
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 44 1/2 × 37 1/2 inches (113 × 95.3 cm)
Framed: 55 × 47 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (139.7 × 120 × 7 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Edsel B. Ford
Accession Number 35.10
Department European Painting
Not On View
by 1677, collection of the family of Marchesi Gerini (Florence, Italy);
1759, Marchese Andrea Gerini (Florence, Italy);
1825, Marchese Giovanni Gerini (Florence, Italy);
December 1, 1825, auction, Collection Gerini, no. 272 (Florence, Italy).
1829, collection of John Rodwell (London, England);
by 1915, collection of Colonel William Cornwallis West (Denbigh, Ruthin Castle / Lymington, Newlands Manor, Wales);
July 11, 1919, auction, Christie's, no. 75 (London, England).
1923-1928, dealer, A. L. Nicholson (London, England).
1935, dealer, Dr. Siegfried Aram (New York, New York, USA);
1938, Edsel B. Ford (Detroit, Michigan, USA);
1938-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
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Raccolta di ottanta stampe del Marchese Gerini. Florence, 1786 (pl. 22).

Martyn, T. A Tour through Italy. London, 1791, p. 379.

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Trevisan, L. Giorgione, Vol. 1. Venice, 1950, p. 590 (repro.).

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Religious Painting 15th - 19th Century. Brooklyn, 1956, cat. 7.

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100 Masterworks from the DIA. New York, 1985, p. 15 (fig. 6).

Titian: Prince of Painters. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Venice, 1990-1991 cat. 69 (repro.). [entry by J.P. Marandel]

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The Age of Titian: Venetian Renaisance Art from Scottish Collections. Exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland. Edinburgh, 2004, p. 178 (repro.). [not in exhibition]

Titien Le pouvoir en face. Paris, 2006, pp. 216-217, cat. 60 (repro.).

Important Old Master Paintings. Sales cat., Sotheby’s, New York, January 29, 2009, p. 94. [Comparative illustration for "Salome with the Head of the Baptist" by Titian. Auction no. 8516, cat. 33]