Judith and Holofernes (Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust)
Artstor is sharing a themed collection of approximately 300 images based on the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes across many periods and a wide range of media, including the unprecedented publication of narrative sequences in stained glass, relief sculpture and book illustrations. Sponsored by a grant from the Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust, the collection complements the approximately 330 existing images in various other collections in the Digital Library that depict figures and events from the Old Testament's Book of Judith.
According to the Book of Judith, the widow Judith saved the besieged city of Bethulia by decapitating the enemy general Holofernes, thereby enabling her Israelite countrymen to defeat the invading Assyrians. The powerful appeal to the visual imagination of the Judith narrative has inspired and challenged Western scribes, illustrators, draftsmen, painters, and sculptors for two millennia. Judith was portrayed by Dante in The Divine Comedy and Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales; medieval depictions of the narrative cycle may be found in stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and relief sculptures at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen; Renaissance and baroque depictions of Judith abound, including works by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Donatello, Artemisia Gentileschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Giorgione, Andrea Mantegna, Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and Paolo Veronese; and in the 20th century, the theme was treated by Austrian expressionists, French surrealists, and contemporary feminist and conceptual artists.
The Judith and Holofernes collection in Artstor is part of a larger project —The Judith Project: Expanding the Boundaries of Disciplinarity Through Collaborative Scholarly Practice— initiated by the Trust to enhance scholarship on The Book of Judith through multidisciplinary collaboration and the application of technology. As part of this project, approximately 30 international scholars were selected by the Trust and an academic panel to participate in the Sword of Judith Conference held at the New York Public Library on April 17-18, 2008 (see K. Brine, E. Ciletti and H. Lähnemann (editors), The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies across the Disciplines, Open Book Publishers, 2010). Participants presented their ongoing work for collaboration and exchange at the conference and subsequently continued their research in libraries and museums in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Research has been conducted on Judith as a subject in classical and baroque music and dance; the emergence of the theme of Judith in Yiddish literature; the resurgent interest in Judith in the 19th and 20th centuries; the relationship of The Book of Judith to the Jewish and Christian canons; the Mary/Judith typology; and the interpretation of Judith in Jewish, Christian, and secular literature, manuscript illuminations, and works of art. The corpus of images in the Artstor Digital Library is intended to persist beyond the formal conclusion of the project and be available for ongoing study and scholarship.