Monday, 10 August 2015


LUCAS CRANACH (The Elder) was a German Renaissance painter who lived between 1472 and 1553. He specialised in portraits of members of the Weimar court, as well as of prominent protestants including Martin Luther and his family. 

Cranach also had an 'interest'* in the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, in which the brutal Assyrian general Holofernes invades the town of Bethulia, only to be killed by the beautiful Jewish widow Judith, who seduces him and then, as he enjoys a drunken post coital nap, cuts his head off.

The subtle differences in these studies are fascinating, especially the various expressions that Judith wears, which vary from tired to triumphant, smug to sanguine, distracted to defiant. Holofernes' expression is fairly constant throughout: a dopey face on a dead head, a grisly reminder of the dangers of one night stands.  

* Many painters have depicted the subject, including Caravaggio and Gustav Klimt, but Cranach is clearly obsessed with it. 

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