We have for sale an exquisite antique oil painting on canvas by 18/19th century Guido Reni School or Follower. The scene depicts the Jewess widower, Judith and her encounter with the Assyrian leader, Holofernes. The canvas has been professionally relined. The black light shows evidence of professional inpainting around the right side of her head and on her right sleeve. There are also two spots of restoration in the upper left corner above her head. I have included photographs trying to show these areas. The original art size is 38 3/4" x 28 3/4" with the frame measuring 43 1/2" x 33 1/2". This artwork is in very good condition for the age. There is a glare on the art!!
Provenance: The art was purchased in the late 60s from PB 84 (Parke-Bernet on East 84th St. in New York City) by the owners of Seaside Art Gallery.
FYI: The Book of Judith is a deuterocanonical book, included in the Septuagint and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian Old Testament of the Bible, but excluded by Jews and Protestants. It has been said that the book contains numerous historical anachronisms, which is why many scholars now accept it as non-historical; it has been considered a parable or perhaps the first historical novel.
The Book of Judith revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life. Ref: Wikipedia
Here is another article about Judith: The Story of Judith Art History Stories from Sacred Texts By Beth Gersh-Nesic, The story of Judith who saved the Jews of Bethulia from annihilation during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (ruled 605-562 BCE) can be found in the Apocrypha from the Hebrew Bible. Judith was a Jewish widow who lived in Bethulia, when Nebuchadnezzar's famous general Holofernes brought his army to their village, directed to conquer the area for his Babylonian king. However, Holofernes discovered that the village flourished with one spring of water. Delaying his invasion, he decided to have his army plug up the spring with stones and stand guard. After three days, the Bethulians were thirsty and desperate. Judith stepped forward to ask the elders to intervene. They told her to trust in God. Instead, she returned home, took off her dark widow's garb and put on her sexiest outfit, determined to take matters into her own hands.
Judith set out for Holofernes' encampment with her maidservant, taking wine and cheese in a sackcloth as a gift for the general. At the entrance to the encampment, Judith convinced the guardsmen she was ready to share strategic information with the general. Since she was Jewish, no one doubted that she needed to carry her own kosher food to sustain her for the journey. Once inside the general's tent, she fed Holofernes plenty of salty cheese which required that the general drink plenty of wine to quench his thirst, as in Lucas Cranach the Elder's Judith Dining with Holofernes (1531). The wine made him drunk. In a stupor, he lay down on his bed expecting Judith to follow. Seizing her chance, Judith took Holofernes sword and with her maidservant's help, cut off his head and put it into her sack. The two women then walked past the guards easily, as they assumed that Holofernes was still in his tent much satisfied, as in Cristoforo Allori's Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1613). The next day, Holofernes' army discovered their murdered leader and decided to retreat, leaving the Bethulians free to unplug their spring and return to normalcy. Judith was celebrated throughout the village and lived a long and prosperous life thereafter.
Today it is believed that Judith was an ancestor of the Maccabees who fought Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 175-164 BC) in order to regain control of the Temple in Jerusalem during the Hellenistic period. Hanukah, the festival of light, celebrates the Maccabee victory over Antiochus, the rededication of the Temple and the miracle of the lamp oil which should have lasted only one day, but lasted eight. On the fifth day of Hanukah, Jews eat cheese and other dairy products to remember Judith's great deed which parallels the Maccabees' in 167 BCE.
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