Judith with the Head of Holoferne

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Judith with the Head of Holoferne Gustav Klimt
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Adele Bloch-Bauer returns to model for Klimt again in this adaptation of a biblical heroine, combined with the seductive and erotic powers of the artist.

Instantly recognisable from the series of portraits I and II, Adele held aesthetic characteristics that the artist seemed to like employing in his portrait work around this time.

Her dark hair and pointed facial features lent themselves to his reproduction of mythological scenes, although he also used slightly more curvy models at other times, such as in Danae.

Klimt's depiction of women as sexual and strong would again prove controversial upon releasing this painting, as it had done with the likes of Pallas Athene. The attractions of feminine strength that is appreciated today proved unpalatable to many around that time.

Klimt captures this biblical heroine with the head of General Holofernes, saving her home city of Bethulia from destruction by the Assyrian army. The artist styles Judith with Viennese styles of his time, adapting heavily the original story.

Salome was the title given by many to this work initially as a way of accepting the artwork into society at that time, but as things have moved on over the past century it is now refered to with the correct name as the artist had always intended.