Judith with the head of Holofernes

Judith with the head of Holofernes

Title

Judith with the head of Holofernes

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Painting on lime wood

Medium

Painting on lime wood

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

On the panel in Kassel Judith shows the severed head of Holofernes. She grasps him by the hair so that his face is turned upwards. The particularly low angle clearly shows with the slightly open eyelids and open mouth that Holofernes was surprised while sleeping. Judith holds up the general's

On the panel in Kassel Judith shows the severed head of Holofernes. She grasps him by the hair so that his face is turned upwards. The particularly low angle clearly shows with the slightly open eyelids and open mouth that Holofernes was surprised while sleeping. Judith holds up the general's sword in her right hand while her head is inclined slightly to one side. The parallel diagonals of the sword and the curtain emphasis the position of her head within the composition. At the same time the gentle curve of her head within the oval frame of the beret harmonises with the soft pyramidal shape of the torso. The curtain, which belongs to Holofernes' tent, opens to the right revealing the distant town of Bethulia on a rocky outcrop. Judith wears a Joachimstaler, one of the most famous silver coins of the german Renaissance, which gave its name to all other thaler coins. This thaler, named after St. Joachimstal, the place where it was minted, which is located on the southern bohemian slopes of the Erzgebirge, was currency in the electorate of Saxony and from there infiltrated european monetary transactions. On the panel in Kassel the side with the bohemian lion and a circumscription with the name of King Ludwig I of Bohemia (as Ludwig II also King of Hungary) is shown.

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Attributions
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Elder

Attributions

Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 270]

Production date
after 1526 or about 1530 - 1531

Production date

after 1526 or about 1530 - 1531

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70] [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 94]

Dimensions
Dimensions of support: 87.4 x 57.5 x 0.6 cm (trimmed along all edges)

Dimensions

  • Dimensions of support: 87.4 x 57.5 x 0.6 cm (trimmed along all edges)

  • [Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Signature / Dating
Artist's insignia bottom left: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing right

Signature / Dating

  • Artist's insignia bottom left: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing right

  • [cda 2013]

Inscriptions and Labels
- on the sword: 'N' - on the coin: 'LVDOVICUS PRIM: GRACIA: R: BO:' Reverse of the panel: - …

Inscriptions and Labels

Inscriptions, Badges:

  • - on the sword: 'N'
  • - on the coin:
  • 'LVDOVICUS PRIM[us]: [D for Dei is missing] GRACIA: R[ex]: BO[emiae]:'
  • [Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Stamps, Seals, Labels:

  • Reverse of the panel:
  • - label from the Staatl. Museen Kassel
  • [Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]
Owner
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel
Repository
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel
Location
Kassel
CDA ID
DE_MHK_GK16
FR (1978) Nr.
FR230H
Persistent Link
https://lucascranach.org/en/DE_MHK_GK16/

Provenance

  • probably acquired as early as the 16th or the early 17th century; first recorded under Landgrave Carl (reg. 1677-1733)
  • lost under King Jérôme
  • 1817 rediscovered in Kassel

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Exhibitions

Frankfurt, London 2007/2008, no. 99
Rome 2010, no. 31
Gotha/Kassel 2015, no. 94

Literature

Reference on page Catalogue Number Figure/Plate
Cat. Coburg 2018 192, fn. 4 under no. 42
AuthorKlaus Weschenfelder
TitleCranach in Coburg. Gemälde von Lucas Cranach d.Ä., Lucas Cranach d.J., der Werkstatt und des Umkreises in den Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg
Place of PublicationRegensburg
Year of Publication2018
Exhib. Cat. Prague 2016 145
EditorOlga Kotková
TitleCranach. Ze všech stran. From all sides.
Place of PublicationPrague
Year of Publication2016
Pages16-180
Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015 270, 271 94 Pl. p. 271
EditorJulia Carrasco, Justus Lange, Benjamin D. Spira, Timo Trümper, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
TitleBild und Botschaft. Cranach im Dienst von Hof und Reformation, [Gotha, Herzogliches Museum; Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Schloss Wilhelmshöhe]
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Year of Publication2015
Lange 2015 30, 40
AuthorJustus Lange
TitleLucas Cranach und die Landgrafschaft Hessen
Publicationin Julia Carrasco, Justus Lange, Benjamin D. Spira, Timo Trümper, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha and Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, eds., Bild und Botschaft. Cranach im Dienst von Hof und Reformation, [Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel]
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Year of Publication2015
Pages29-42
Exhib. Cat. Rome 2010 231 - 233 No. 31 Pl. p. 233
EditorGalleria Borghese, Rome, Anna Coliva, Bernard Aikema
TitleCranach. L'altro rinascimento / a different renaissance, [Rome, Galleria Borghese 15 ottobre 2010 - 13 febbraio 2011]
Place of PublicationMilan
Year of Publication2010
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007 320-321 99 p. 321
EditorBodo Brinkmann
TitleCranach der Ältere, [Frankfurt, Städel Museum, 23 Nov 2007 - 17 Feb 2008]
Place of PublicationOstfildern
Year of Publication2007
Cat. Kassel 1997 70-76
AuthorAnja Schneckenburger-Broschek
EditorStaatliche Museen Kassel
TitleAltdeutsche Malerei. Die Tafelbilder und Altäre des 14. bis 16. Jahrhunderts in der Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister und im Hessischen Landesmuseum Kassel. Bestandskatalog staatliche Museen Kassel
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication1997
Cat. Kassel 1996
EditorBernhard Schnackenburg
TitleGesamtkatalog Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Staatliche Museen Kassel
Place of PublicationMainz
Year of Publication1996
Cat. Kassel 1982 27-29 p. 76
AuthorAnja Schneckenburger-Broschek
TitleDie Altdeutsche Malerei. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Kassel
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1982
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979 117 230H
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
EditorG. Schwartz
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBasel, Boston, Stuttgart
Year of Publication1979
Cat. Kassel 1969 17, 78 pl. 5
AuthorE. Herzog
TitleDie Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Kassel
Place of PublicationHanau
Year of Publication1969
Cat. Kassel 1958 47 16
AuthorHeinrich Vogel
TitleKatalog der Staatlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Kassel
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1958
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932 190H
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1932
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/friedlaender1932
Cat. Kassel 1929 18, 99 16
AuthorK. Luhmer
TitleKatalog der staatlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Kassel
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1929
Glaser 1923 233
AuthorCurt Glaser
TitleLukas Cranach
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1923
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/glaser1923
Cat. Kassel 1913 13 16
AuthorG. Gronau
TitleKatalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Cassel. Amtliche Ausgabe
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1913
Michaelson 1902 108
AuthorHedwig Michaelson
TitleLukas Cranach der Ältere. Untersuchung über die stilistische Entwicklung seiner Kunst
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1902
Cat. Kassel 1888 5 7
AuthorOskar Eisenmann
TitleKatalog der Königlichen Gemälde-Galerie zu Cassel
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1888
Cat. Kassel 1877 2 11
AuthorK. Chr. Aubel
TitleVerzeichniß der in dem Lokale der Neuen Gemälde-Gallerie zu Cassel befindlichen Bilder
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1877
Cat. Kassel 1866 31
AuthorLouis Katzenstein
TitleDie Bildergallerie im Schloß Bellevue zu Kassel. Eine Zusammenstellung der hervorragendsten Gemälde mit kulturgeschichtlichen und biographischen Notizen
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1866
Lotz 1862 139 11
AuthorWilhelm Lotz
TitleKunsttopographie Deutschlands
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1862
Cat. Kassel 1845 4 11
AuthorK. Chr. Aubel
TitleAuszug aus dem Verzeichnisse der Kurfürstlichen Gemälde-Sammlung
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1845
Cat. Kassel 1830 3 11
AuthorErnst Friedrich Ferdinand Robert
TitleVerzeichniß der Kurfürstlichen Gemählde-Sammlung
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1830
Cat. Kassel 1819 2-3 10
AuthorErnst Friedrich Ferdinand Robert
TitleVersuch eines Verzeichnisses der Kurfürstlich Hessischen Gemälde-Sammlung
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1819
Cat. Kassel 1783 180 55
AuthorC. Causid
TitleVerzeichnis der Hochfürstlichen-Heßischen Gemählde-Sammlung in Cassel
Place of PublicationKassel
Year of Publication1783

Description/ Interpretation/ Comments

The representation of Judith in Kassel also proports a religious political statement. In this context the thaler on her beret plays a particular role. Its exposed position directly on the central axis above the head of Holofernes indicates that it is not merely intended as a decorative element, but correlates with the subject of the painting. In this respect it resembles all the medallions on panel paintings that have a specific meaning. For example in portraits by Dürer Emperor Maximilian wears a portrait medallion depicting the Virgin, his patron saint, on his beret. The saxon chancellor Georg Brück was portrayed by Cranach with a portrait medallion of Johann Friedrich to express his goodwill as well as to demonstrate his loyalty to the elector. The thaler on Judith's beret alludes to Ludwig I. of Bohemia, who went down in history as a fighter against the Turks. In 1526, aged only 20, he lost his life at the battle of Mohacz. The viewer who can interpret the Latin circumscription on the thaler is reminded of the soldier who fought against the Turks and fell so young and could thus interpret the Kassel Judith as an avenger against the Turks as was the case in slightly late works by Sixt Birck and Hans Sachs. By equating the Assyrians with the Turks they refer to the current situation in their works and refer to Luther's recommendation that the Book of Judith yields a 'good, solemn, valiant tragedy'. Admittedly in this case the Judith in Kassel does not embody a protestant symbolic figure, but rather refers to the common enemy of the empire, with whom both catholics and protestants were in conflict.

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 73]

[...] It is rare that the background like here in the painting from Kassel is complemented by a wonderful view of a landscape. [1] Here the obliquely cut dark backdrop can be associated with the field commander's tent, the scene of the crime. The eleborate attire of the sitter was employed in a slightly modified form in the ideal portrait of a courtly lady from about 1530. [...]

In contrast to other depictions of the subject it is striking that here the figure of Judith, who is generally turned further to the left and positioned at an angle within the pictorial space, is distinctly frontal. With this device Cranach recalls depictions of 'Justitia', which also have the upright sword as a symbol of juristdiction in common. Examples may be found in Cranach's work as well as on contemporary Saxon electoral coins.[2] These similarities underline the symbolic significance of Judith as an example of the divine justice carried out against Holofernes. The initial 'N' on the blade of the bloody sword just above the hilt refers to King Nebuchadnezzar, to whom Holofernes served as field commander. [3] This is associated with a clear warning to the tyrannical king, who should be afraid of God's justice.

[1] It is assumed that Cranach draws on the venetian type. Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, 418.

[2] Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010, 197; Cat. Kassel 1997, 74

[3] Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007, 320

[Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 270]

  • Judith with the head of Holofernes, after 1526 or about 1530 - 1531

Images

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Technical studies

1997Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography

Support

- lime wood

- four planks alligned vertically

- planed on the reverse

- in the 19th century the panel was thinned to a thickness of 0.6 cm, laminated onto a wooden panel and cradled

- as can be seen in the x-radiograph flax was employed to reinforce the panel

- there is a rebate of 0.4 cm in width along the top of the panel, a barbe has been preserved along both the top and bottom edges

- the panel has been trimmed on all four sides, on the left and right this includes the picture plane

Underdrawing

- an underdrawing is only barely visible in the infrared reflectogram

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

1928 - Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • X-radiography
  • created by Kurt Wehlte

Condition Reports

Date1997

  • good condition

  • abrasion in the dark areas (Holofernes' hair, curtain), covered by retouching and overpaint

  • there is a broad retouch across the left cheek, chin and neckline

  • a long band of retouching covers a split at the centre of the panel, c. 60 cm in length and up to 2 cm in width

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Date1988

  • technical examination for the catalogue

[Curatorial files, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel]

Conservation History

Date1981

  • conservation treatment by C. Walther

[Curatorial files, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel]

Date1963

  • the panel was prepared for display in the gallery

[Curatorial files, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Kassel]

Date1800 - 1899

  • in the 19th century the panel was thinned to a thickness of 0.6 cm, laminated onto a wooden panel and cradled

[Cat. Kassel 1997, 70]

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

Entry with author
<author's name>, 'Judith with the head of Holofernes', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/DE_MHK_GK16/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})
Entry with no author
'Judith with the head of Holofernes', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document, entry or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/DE_MHK_GK16/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})

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