Judith and HolofernesCa. 1577. Oil on canvas, 188 x 251 cm.
Traditionally catalogued as a work from Tintoretto's youth, the dating of this painting has been moved to the late fifteen-seventies by recent studies. The artist draws on the Bible story (Judith 13, 9-11) but his reading of the subject is not erotic. Here, Judith wears her finest clothing to seduce Holofernes, rather than appearing nude, as was habitual in Italian Renaissance art. The action takes place in the tent of an Assyrian general and the painter has meticulously recreated its interior, carefully reproducing the quality of the metal and glass objects therein. Judith is at the center of the composition, and the bloody sword she used to decapitate Holofernes and thus free the Jewish people from his tyranny lies at her feet. The cadaver lies on a bed to her left, while a maid gets ready to put his head in a sack. The scene was clearly intended to be hung above eye-level, which explains the pronounced scorci of the bodies of Holofernes and the servant, as well as the strange perspective of the bed and table. This work belonged to the Marquis of La Ensenada and was acquired in 1760 for the Royal Collection. It is listed in the 1772 inventory of the Royal Palace.