Giorgione: “Judith”, c. 1504, Hermitage.

Giorgione: Judith with the Head of Holofernes. St. Petersberg, Hermitage.

Although originally given to Raphael, scholars have for over a century agreed that the Hermitage Judith with the Head of Holofernes is an early work by Giorgione. Moreover, they agree that it is a ground–breaking work.

In 1996 Jaynie Anderson wrote: “With this small picture, Giorgione introduce the Jewish heroine of the Apocrypha to Venetian painting….”* Three years later Terisio Pignatti wrote that “Giorgione’s Judith with the Head of Holofernes introduces numerous innovations that make the painting fascinating, particularly in the field of iconography…”** (52)

Characteristically, Giorgione avoided the use of stock or standard iconographical elements. In 2007 Wolfgang Eller noted that Giorgione’s painting contains “no optical indication of the events. There is no female servant, no tent, no besieged city, and no waiting figures in the background that illustrate the story.”***

All commentators seem to agree that the most striking element in the painting is the bare leg of Judith.  According to Terisio Pignati, “Giorgione inserts a completely new motif in the garments which reveal the left leg of the woman.”#  But they can find no good explanation and fall back on “eroticism” and “sensuality.” According to Wolfgang Eller,

the raised leg makes an extensive laying bare of the female thigh possible for the painter. In Giorgione’s time, this was considered highly erotic, for a woman to show only her calves was even more daring than a bare bosom. Thus from the aspect of the observer of those times, the depicted figure is identifiable as being erotic.##

It would appear, however, that in depicting the “bare thigh” Giorgione was just paying close attention to the biblical account in the Latin Vulgate, the only Bible in use at the time.

Chapter 9 of the Book of Judith gives the famous prayer of the Jewish heroine as she prepares for her encounter with the enemy tyrant. Here is verse 2 from the Jerusalem Bible.

Lord, God of my father Simeon,

You armed him with a sword to take vengeance on the foreigners

Who had undone a virgin’s girdle to her shame,

Laid bare her thigh to her confusion, violated her womb to her dishonor…

Judith is referring to the story of the rape of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and the sister of Simeon, from the Book of Genesis, 34: 1-3.

Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter by Leah, went out to visit the women of that region. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, who was ruler of that region, saw her, carried her off and raped her, and so dishonoured her.

This incident led to the slaughter of the Hivite men after they had been tricked into undergoing circumcision.

It would appear that Giorgione used an exposed thigh to indicate a woman in danger of sexual assault. In another early work that we only have in a 17th century copy by David Teniers, Giorgione used the same motif. He exposed the thigh of the Madonna in a depiction of the apocryphal encounter with robbers on the flight into Egypt. This copy of the lost Giorgione has for centuries been mis-identified as the “Discovery of Paris,” but in my paper on the “Tempest” I have demonstrated that it should be called the “Encounter with the Robbers on the Flight into Egypt.”

David Teniers: Mid-seventeenth century copy of a lost Giorgione usually called the “Discovery of Paris” but actually, “The Encounter with Robbers on the Flight into Egypt.”

Giorgione also paid close attention to another element in the biblical account. Chapter 10 of the Book of Judith gives a detailed account of Judith putting on her finery.

There she removed the sackcloth she was wearing and, taking off her widow’s dress, she washed all over, anointed herself with costly perfumes, dressed her hair, wrapped a turban around it and put on the dress she used to wear on joyful occasions when her husband Manasseh was alive. She put sandals on her feet, put on her necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and all her jewelry, and made herself beautiful enough to catch the eye of every man who saw her.

Judith’s deed is usually seen as an heroic attempt to deliver not just herself but her people from danger. Yet during the Renaissance she was often seen as a prototype of Mary. Perhaps it was this aspect that influenced Giorgione or his patron. Judith’s prayer (9:11) sounds very similar to Mary’s famous Magnificat.

Your strength does not lie in numbers,

Nor your might in violent men;

Since you are the God of the humble,

The help of the oppressed,

The support of the weak,

The refuge of the forsaken,

The savior of the despairing.

The Book of Judith is still included in Catholic bibles today, but it has been rejected by Protestants. As far as I know it is no longer in the Hebrew canon although the name Judith still retains its popularity.

According to Anderson Giorgione’s painting was originally a door panel since there is evidence of a painted over keyhole. ###


*Anderson, Jaynie: Giorgione, 1997, p. 292.

**Pignatti, Terisio and Pedrocco, Filippo: Giorgione, Rizzoli, 1999, p. 52.

***Eller, Wolfgang: Giorgione Catalog Raisonne, Petersberg, 2007, p. 47.

#Pignatti, op. cit., p. 42.

##Eller, op.cit., p. 48.


Recent Posts

Giorgione et al…


In addition to the interpretive discoveries listed on the page menu above, I have been writing about Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance on my blog site, Giorgione et al…, since September 2010. At the suggestion of Hasan Niyazi, my late Australian friend who created the very popular blog, Three Pipe Problem, I decided to use a blog to attract a wider audience. Since then, there have been almost 300000 page views at Giorgione et al…. Below find a table of contents for the blog site.

Giorgione: The Tempest. 9/7/2010

The Discovery of Paris. 9/13/2010

Giorgione: Three Philosophers. 9/20/2010

Boy with an Arrow. 9/27/10

Giorgione. “Laura”. 10/4/2010

Manchester Madonna. 10/11/2010

Titian: Vendramin Family. 10/14/2010

Tempesta “Pentimenti”. 10/24/2010

Luca Signorelli and Giorgione. 10/30/2010.

Giorgione Tempest. The Solitary Bird. 11/5/2010.

Giorgione and Paris Bordone: St. Joseph. 11/13/2010.

Giorgione “Tempest” Followers. 11/21/2010.

Giorgione “Tempest”: Gypsy Madonna. 11/26/2010.

Giorgione Tempest: A Gypsy Woman. 12/4/2010.

Giorgione, Michelangelo and Renaissance Nudity. 12/12/2010.

Giorgione Princeton Symposium. 12/18/2010.

Giorgione: Madonna and Child. 12/21/2010.

Giorgione: Historical Imagination. 1/1/2011.

Giorgione: “Virgilian” Tempest. 1/8/2011.

Giorgione: “Platonic” Tempest. 1/16/2011.

Giorgione: “Lucretian” Tempest. 1/23/2011.

Giorgione: Grimani Breviary. 1/30/2011. 

Giorgione and Correggio. 2/6/2011.

Giorgione: The Madonna in Art. 2/13/2011.

Giorgione: Patrons and Painters. 2/20/2011.

Giorgione: “Due Notte”. 2/27/2011.

Giorgione and Cima da Conegliano. 3/6/2011

Giorgione: Renaissance Conference, March 2011, St. Louis. 3/12/2011

Giorgione and Lorenzo Lotto. 3/20/2011.

Giorgione and Mantegna: Exceptional Painters. 3/26/2011.

Giorgione and Patenier. 4/2/2011.

Giorgione Catalogs. 4/10/2011.

Giorgione: Judith. 4/17/2011.

Giorgione: Christ Carrying the Cross. 4/23/2011.

Giorgione and Fra Bartolomeo. 4/30/2011.

Giorgione Tempest: Adam and Eve? 5/7/2011.

Giorgione’s Tempest: A Renaissance Mystery Solved. 5/13/2011

Giorgione and Gerard David. 5/23/2011.

Giorgione: Sacred Art Guides. 5/28/2011.

Giorgione and Giovanni Bellini. 6/5/2011.

Giorgione and Titian. 6/12/2011.

Giorgione: Rona Goffen’s Venetian Eyes. 6/18/2011.

Giorgione: “Saturn Exiled” or “Man of Sorrows”. 6/25/2011.

Giorgione Tempest: a Vision. 7/3/2011.

Giorgione Tempest: Paris and Oenone. 7/9/2011.

Giorgione and Raphael. 7/16/2011.

Giorgione: Paintings and Patricians. 7/23/2011.

Giorgione and the Young Titian. 7/30/2011.

Giorgione: Castelfranco Altarpiece. 8/7/2011.

Giorgione: Castelfranco Altarpiece 2. 8/14/2011.

Giorgione and Jan van Scorel. 8/21/2011 

Giorgione: Mary Magdalen. 9/4/2011.

Giorgione: Sleeping Venus. 9/21/2011.

Giorgione: “Boy with an Arrow” 2. 9/28/2011.

Giorgione: “Three Ages of Man.” 10/8/2011.

Giorgione and the Young Titian 2. 10/22/2011.

Veronese: Mary Magdalen. 11/15/2011.

Giorgione and Titian: Mystery and Enigma. 11/24/2011.

Giorgione, Titian and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. 12/8/2011.

Giorgione: “Virgilian” Tempest 2. 12/14/2011.

Giorgione, Titian and a Venetian Humanist. 12/23/2011.

Giorgione and Paris. 1/5/2012.

Giorgione: Allendale Adoration of the Shepherds. 1/13/2012.

Giorgione, Titian and Venetian Humanism. 1/27/2012.

Giorgione, Titian, and Anna Jameson. 2/8/2012.

Duccio: Maesta. 2/16/2012.

Giorgione: More Tempests. 2/22/2012.

Mary Magdalen. 3/2/2012.

Titian: “Flora”. 3/14/2012.

Renaissance Conference New Orleans. 3/22/2012.

Giovanni Bellini: Pieta. 3/31/2012.

Emile Male: Sacred Symbolism. 4/15/2012.

Giorgione: Catalog. 4/28/2012.

Titian: Sacred and Profane Love. 5/6/2012.

Bellini, Titian, Lotto. 5/17/2012.

Giorgione: Trial of Moses and Judgment of Solomon. 5/31/2012.

Giorgione and Leonardo. 6/14/2012.

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian bibliography. 6/28/2012.

Giorgione, Titian bibliography. 7/8/2012 

Giorgione: “Man of Sorrows.” 7/30/2012.

Titian: Presentation of the Virgin. 8/3/2012.

Giorgione’s Venice. 8/14/2012.

Giorgione Self- Portrait. 9/1/2012.

Giorgione’s Reputation. 9/11/2012.

Giorgione’s World. 9/24/2012.

Giorgione’s Apprenticeship at Padua. 10/16/2012.

Giorgione: Scientific Examinations. 11/3/2012

Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione: From Padua to Venice. 11/17/2012

Giorgione’s Tempest: Broken Columns. 12/4/2012

Giorgione’s Tempest: The Young Man. 12/15/2012.

Giorgione’s Tempest: The Young Man, Part II. 12/22/2012.

Giorgione’s Tempest: The Nursing Woman. 1/4/2013.

Giorgione’s Tempest: Marian Symbols. 1/15/2013.

Giorgione’s Tempest: The Woman Clothed with the Sun. 1/25/2013.

Giorgione’s Tempest: Massacre of the Innocents. 2/7/2013.

Ringling Museum of Art. 2/17/2013.

Titian: “Sacred and Profane Love”, Relief. 2/26/2013.

Titian: Sacred and Profane Love, Relief Figures of Adam and Eve. 3/7/2013.

Titian: “Sacred and Profane Love”, Conversion of St. Paul. 3/19/2013.

Titian: Sacred and Profane Love, Relief Summary. 3/29/2013.

Raphael: St. Cecilia. 4/18/2013.

The New Connoisseurship. 4/30/2013.

Giorgione: “Tempest”, First Edition. 5/13/2013.

Houghton Hall Exhibition. 5/20/2013.

Titian Exhibition: Rome, 2013. 6/6/2013.

Pastoral Concert. 6/17/2013.

Giorgione and Titian: Pastoral Concert. 7/1/2013.

Giorgione: The Three Philosophers. 7/15/2013.

Giorgione: Boy with an Arrow. 7/31/2013.

Giorgione’s Laura, Titian’s Flora, and Mary Magdalen. 8/19/2013.

Stokstad on Giorgione’s Tempest. 8/31/2013.

Renaissance Art Mysteries. 9/11/2013.

Renaissance Art Mysteries: Mary and Judith. 9/26/2013.

Renaissance Art Mysteries: Young St. Joseph. 10/9/2013.

Renaissance Art Mysteries: Giorgione “Saturn Exiled” or “Man of Sorrows.” 10/21/2013 

Hasan Niyazi R.I.P. 10/28/2013.

Renaissance Mysteries. Raphael’s “Vision of Ezekiel”? 11/5/2013.

Renaissance Mysteries; The Old Woman in Titian’s “Presentation.” 11/19/2013 

Titian at the Norton Simon Museum. 12/14/2013.

Giorgione: Christmas Stamp. 12/24/2013.

Titian: Madonna of the Rabbit. 1/7/2014.

Venice in 1500. 1/22/2014.

Jesus and Mary Magdalen. 3/12/2014.

Raphael, Giorgione, and the Flight into Egypt. 3/27/2014.

Renaissance Society Conference. 4/12/2014.

Durer in Venice. 4/29/2014.

Giorgione: “La Tempesta.” 5/13/2014 

Giorgione: Lost Discovery of Paris. 5/28/2014.

Giorgione: Three Philosophers. 6/9/2014.

Giorgione and Marcantonio Michiel. 6/26/2014.

Giorgione and Morto da Feltro. 7/12/2014

Lorenzo Lotto: Crucifixion. 7/25/2014.

Titian: Assumption of Mary. 8/11/2014.

Giorgione Scholarship. 9/6/2014.

Leonardo: Last Supper. 9/18/2014.

Giovanni Bellini: St. Francis in the Desert. 9/29/2014.

The Vision of Ezekiel. 10/14/2014.

Raphael: Czartoryski Portrait. 10/28/2014.

Giorgione, Vasari, and a Judith Fresco. 11/16/2014.

Giorgione: Tempesta Pentimenti. 11/27/2014.

The Immaculate Conception in the Art of the Renaissance. 12/8/2014.

Giorgione: Adoration of the Shepherds. 12/24/2014.

Giorgione, Titian, and the Venetian Renaissance. 1/9/2015.

Norton Simon Duveen Exhibition: Primadonna. 3/4/2015.

Michelangelo: Doni Tondo. 4/4/2015.

Michelangelo: Doni Tondo Revision I. 5/31/2015.

Doni Tondo Revision II: John the Baptist. 7/3/2015.

Doni Tondo Revision III: The Nudes in the Background. 7/21/2015.

Michelangelo Doni Tondo: A Further Note on the Nudes. 9/3/2015.

Giorgione and Titian: Renaissance Mysteries. 9/17/2015.

Giorgione: Contemporary Sources. 10/13/2015.

Hasan Niyazi Correspondence. 10/28/2015.

Giorgio Vasari on Giorgione. 11/25/2015

Giorgione: Adoration of the Shepherds. 12/18/2015.

Edward Hutton on Giorgione. 1/23/2016.

Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Man (Giustiniani). 3/5/2016.

Royal Academy Exhibition: In the Age of Giorgione. 3/16/2016.

The Age of Giorgione: Three Landscapes. 4/15/2016.

Giorgione: the Tempest. 5/13/2016.

Doni Tondo Bibliography. 7/10/2016.


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