(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

The Discovery of the Murder of Holofernes

c. 1472
Tempera on wood, 31 x 25 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The picture was probably created in pendant with The Return of Judith; both of them are documented at the end of 16th century in medicean collections, where entered as a gift received by Bianca Cappello, the second wife of Grand Duke Francesco I. In Renaissance art the biblical story of Judith, the heroine who killed Holofernes oppressor of her people, was frequently selected to symbolize liberty and victory on tyranny.

The soldiers are standing in dismay around the bed on which the headless body of their commander Holofernes is lying. They had expected to find him in Judith's arms, who, however, is already hurrying home. There is only a brief description of the scene in the Bible, and it clearly stimulated Botticelli's imagination. When compared to the other painting, however, the youthful well-formed body presents us with a contradiction: in that painting, the cut off head of Holofernes has the features of an older bearded man.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.