PENNI, Luca
(b. ca. 1500, Firenze, d. 1556, Paris)

The Judgment of Otto

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Oil on canvas, 102 x 74 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto (Otho) III (980-1002), caused the execution of a German count, in revenge for his rejection of her advances, by bringing a false accusation against him to the Emperor. The count's widow, in order to prove her husband's innocence, voluntarily underwent ordeal by red-hot iron, a normal medieval practice to establish the truth. The emperor, satisfied by this evidence, atoned for his wrong judgment by sentencing his wife to be burned at the stake.

On the picture the widow can be seen before the emperor with the severed head of her husband in her hands. However, the subject of this painting is uncertain. It could be alternatively Cleopatra presenting the head of Pompeus to Caesar.