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The Dramatic Image: Baroque Prints of the 17th Century

Wallerant Vaillant
Flemish, 1623–1677
After Guido Reni
Italian, 1575–1642

Judith with the Head of Holofernes

William J. Hitchcock Fund in memory of Grace. J. Hitchcock, 1985.37

In this richly printed black mezzotint after a painting by Guido Reni, Judith holds the freshly severed head of Holofernes in her right hand and the sword used to sever it in her left. A beautiful widow, the Israeli woman Judith pretended to be a spy in order to gain access to the tent of Assyrian general Holofernes, whose armies were laying siege to her town. Plying Holofernes with drink until he was defenseless, Judith proceeded to relieve him the burden of his head.

Highly charged scenes such as this are a hallmark of the Baroque. In Italy especially religious imagery that would engage and educate the populace was strongly supported by the Church. For a time, Guido Reni studied and worked under the guidance of the Carracci Academy in Bologna. He went on to become one of the most important painters of the Bolognese school and was renowned throughout Europe.