(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Judith and Holofernes (detail)

Cappella Sistina, Vatican

In the fresco, almost in the center and nearest to the viewer, the figures of the two women stand out in the bright light against the white wall placed obliquely in the background. Judith is portrayed as she is about to place a cloth over the severed head of Holofernes, which the maidservant is carrying in a tray held on her head. The biblical heroine's face is hidden because she is looking toward the darkened room on the right where, sprawled on the white sheets of the bed, the headless body of the general, depicted with complex foreshortening, appears still to be in a state of frenzied agitation.

Judith and the maidservant form a compact group that is given prominence by strong contrasts and passages of very bright colours: the smalt-blue of Judith's bonnet and dress and the yellow of the borders and oversleeve; the delicate green, with rose-white reflections, of the tunic and the crimson of the belt and sash, repeated with darker tones in the maidservant's tunic, which is lined with deep violet that stands out against the yellow with iridescent greenish shadows of the dress.