The Judith and Holofernes collection in Artstor was sponsored by a grant from the Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust. It is a thematic selection 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. It supplements the hundreds of pre-existing images in various other collections in Artstor that depict figures and events from the Old Testament’s Book of Judith.

In the Book of Judith, the widow Judith saved the besieged city of Bethulia by decapitating Holofernes, the enemy general.The powerful visual potential of this narrative has inspired and challenged Western writers, dramatists, scribes, 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 sculpture at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen; Renaissance and baroque depictions abound, including works by Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Donatello, Artemisia Gentileschi, Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian; 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 initiative —The Judith Project: Expanding the Boundaries of Disciplinarity Through Collaborative Scholarly Practice— supported by the Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust to enhance scholarship on The Book of Judith. As part of this project, approximately 30 international scholars were selected to participate in the Sword of Judith Conference held at the New York Public Library, April, 2008 (see K. Brine, E. Ciletti and H. Lähnemann (editors), The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies across the Disciplines, Open Book Publishers, 2010). The corpus of images in the Artstor Digital Library is intended to persist beyond the formal conclusion of the project and to be available for ongoing study and scholarship.