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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the fut influence looking at a large baroque painting by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi this is the painting that's most often reproduced by Artemisia the subject is Judith and Holofernes this is a biblical subject Old Testament and it's the story of a heroic woman and of course that is always a handy thing when you heard art historian and you're talking about a woman artist in fact it's difficult often with women artists not to read their biography into the paintings but let's just take a close look at the painting to start with it is baroque in almost every way we have this deep tenebra zhem this painting in the dark manor at this very shadowed background that creates this very shallow space and in the brilliantly highlighted figures in the foreground we are in the tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes so the story is that Judith is a Jewish widow from the town of Bethulia which is under siege by the Assyrian army Holofernes is the general of that army and the Jewish town is about to give up Judith hatches a plan to save its Emelia she dresses herself up to catch the eye of the Assyrian general and is able to move across enemy lines because she's seen as betraying her own town the story is usually interpreted that she seduces the general but he gets drunk and falls asleep and then she takes his sword and would be heads him and that's the moment that we're seeing here and she's accompanied by her maidservant Artemisia also painted the next moment of the story which is after the beheading they take the head put it in a bag and bring it back to Bethulia to show everyone in the town that they're now safe the maid is pressing down on Holofernes with all of her might and he seems to be fighting back as best he can in his drunken half-asleep state but Judith is at that moment severing his head and blood spurts everywhere this is tremendously violent she grasps the beard and the hair on his head and holds his head and with her right arm draws that sword through his neck you can feel the force that it took this is very different from Caravaggio's version of the subject where judith looks very dainty and as though she doesn't really have the strength to behead paula fern is look at the contrast of scale look at the size of Holofernes fist against the maidservants face and just how powerful he is versus the scale of the woman well it takes two of them to conquer one of him and notice the way that both of the women's arms are fully extended whereas Holofernes arm breaks of the elbow his leg breaks than me so we have the sense of dismemberment that is not only at the head but also at his other limbs the woman's arms diagonals pushing towards the center the generals legs functioning very much to pair with the parallel forearms of Judith but all of those limbs bringing our attention down to the severing down to the violent act itself his body is radically foreshortened something that is common in Baroque art with his head very close to us and this blood spurting up and down those white sheets the bloodiest goriest part of this painting is what's closest to us and as you said judith holds his head down but what that does is dislocates it so that it seems no longer connected to his body we have those dramatic contrasts of light and dark that we also see very often Baroque art where we have areas of very bright illumination right up against very dark areas of shadow and what that creates is a kind of vivid physicality and it looks to me like she's rolled up her sleeves in order to do this the naturalism is so palpable here and of course that is the heart of Baroque art you