Topic of research: The comparison of the portrayal of the females figures within the paintings “Judith slaying Holofernes” by Caravaggio and Artemisia.
Caravaggio (1571–1610), was the greatest and most influential painter of the Baroque style. He was also a quick-tempered Bohemian who was often jailed for brawling and was forced to flee from the law and his enemies, escaping to Naples, Malta, and Sicily at various times. His "travels" helped to spread his extraordinary style, which was soon imitated across Europe. Caravaggio infused his work with more gritty naturalism than any previous artist, hiring common people as models for saints and apostles, which shocked many of his contemporaries. He dramatized his religious scenes by throwing a diagonal light across his subjects, highlighting some of their features (to emphasize certain emotions and actions) and leaving the rest in shadow Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–c. 1652) wasn't the only female artist in the Baroque period, but she is one of the few to paint historical and religious paintings. Most other female artists were pigeonholed into portrait, still life, and devotional paintings.  Caravaggio was a master mind. The rebel in him is evident in his paintings, the vivid colors, and the brutal honesty that he chose to showcase in pivotal moments captured on canvas. His style and method are also seen coming through in Artemisia Gentileschi’s paintings, yet there is one very stark difference -that is most obvious in their respective paintings titled “Judith slaying Holofernes”-the depiction of Judith. Although Caravaggio was the dare devil of his time, he was underneath the surface still a man. A man who preferred the heroine of his painting to have every essence of being a female set out to do a mans job. Whilst Artemisia chose to depict Judith as a woman of great courage set out to do a job that men were shying away from. Quite a gory painting in its own right, it casts young, pretty Judith as squeamish and stilted, as opposed to Artemisia's strong, determined, and more mature Judith. Both Caravaggio's and Artemisia's versions employ dramatic chiaroscuro and realism. Artemisia seems set on improving on Caravaggio's tentative heroine.  Artemisias intent on painting Judith and Abra, the maid servant, as strong women with no expression of weakness may stem from various personal reasons. She had claimed that her tutor Agostino Tassi raped and sexually intimidated her. In a seven month court trial in 1621, she - as a teenager - was tortured with thumb screws to ascertain the truth of her claims; she was further subjected to relentless public humiliation from both the Roman judicial system and the public.  This may very well be the reason that Artemisia opted to paint her female subjects in such a manner, a female painter of enormous talent treated so poorly because she had sought justice. She may have found painting Judith as an unflinching courageous female caught in a situation where the burden was entirely upon her shoulders as a reflection of how she herself had chosen to stand up and fight. Perhaps in her minds eye, Holofernes represented the injustice of society imposed by men in power and Judith, the female who had chosen to face it head on. The two paintings in their own right are breathtaking. The rich colors, the moment captured so beautifully that you are at once pulled in, desperate to catch every detail, to allow yourself to soak in the each and every fold of cloth, the smoothness of flesh, the expressions that allow you to fully understand what each character was thinking and feeling, to not only observe from a distance but to become a part. The paintings are meant to be relished. The situations are the same but the presence of the female characters is entirely different. The painting by Caravaggio ( c.1598) has a sensual undertone, the red sheet weighing down on the canvas, reminding the viewer, that, yes she had seduced him; Judith had used her...
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