Artworks
Judith with the Head of Holofernes
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jtucker's picture

Contributor

Cristofano Allori used this painting to symbolize his love for a very special woman. No wonder their relationship didn’t end well.

This painting highlights the serious girl power featured in Book of Judith. From her frizzy locks, we can see that Judith is most definitely a Jew which, during the tyranny of general Holofernes, was not exactly ideal. Surprise surprise, the Jews were yet again being persecuted, this time by the Neo-Babylonian empire, and Holofernes was just the right amount of a**hole to pillage Jerusalem and denounce their God in honor of this totalitarian empire. Being the badass chick she was, Judith did not take kindly to this and decided to take matters into her own hands.

Because she was using her womanly wiles to the fullest, Holofernes could not resist the young Judith and allowed her to enter his tent. Clearly Holofernes could not hold his booze, even for sexy time. He soon passed out in a drunken stupor at which point Judith decided to go Sweeney Todd on him, slit the jugular, and ultimately chop off his noggin as a trophy. Well deserved if you ask me.  

This gruesome story continues to be a favorite throughout the centuries and has been captured by artists from Donatello to Caravaggio, but Allori’s rendition takes the award for the most interesting backstory. Allori made this painting as an autobiographical account of his turbulent relationship with his mistress Maria de Giovanni Mazzafirri. Allori used Mazzafirri as the model for Judith, her mother for the model of the elderly maid, and himself for the head of Holofernes.

Using such a violent story as an account for his love life leads me to believe that this relationship wasn’t exactly filled with love letters and foot rubs. I believe that we can confidently derive a few factoids from this painting: Mazzafirri was a woman of regal beauty, the dynamics of a relationship out of wedlock can be characterized by both love and hate, and that Allori was literally head over heals for this mistress, if you catch my drift. Needless to say, if your lover ever presents you with a painting like this as a representation of your relationship...break up with them immediately.