This is a new interpretation, suggested in the catalogue of the exhibition Rembrandt. History Painter (2008).

As early as 1920, in the catalogue of the Museo del Prado (p.410), Pedro de Madrazo indicated that E. Michel “…does not accept either interpretation – Sophonisba and Artemisa – and assumes that this is a biblical subject, depicting Bathsheba or Judith”.

Holofernes said to her: “Drink now and be merry for thou hast found favour with me”. And Judith said: “I will drink my lord, because my life is magnified this day above all my days”. (Apocryphal Book of Judith, 12, 17-19).

The facial expression of the principal figure in the present work and the gesture of her hand would be appropriate to Judith’s when rejecting the invitation of the enemy general. The old woman could be identified as Judith’s servant, waiting outside Holofernes’ tent with the saddle bag of provisions in which his severed head would be stored (Judith 13, 9-10).

 
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