Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes: An Example of the Baroque Era and Its Art

Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes: An Example of the Baroque Era and Its Art

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The Baroque era was born out of the Roman Catholic Church’s Counter Reformation, during which the church made considerable efforts to strengthen the relationship between the secular world and the religious order. In an effort to engage the common people and create piety, the Catholic Church wanted art to appeal to human emotions. Gentileschi successfully accomplishes this in her painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes. By infusing the Apocryphal tale of Judith with dramatic techniques such as chiaroscuro and foreshortening, she created a deeply moving and realistic piece of art that engages the viewer physically and emotionally, which is quintessential to the Baroque style.
With the number of people losing faith in Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church needed to find a way to reaffirm the catholic faith in people, and because many of the people during this time were illiterate, the church needed a universal method of communication. Art, being a media that only need to be seen in order to be understood, was used to portray very direct, passionate and realistic, mostly religious scenes that could be understood by anyone regardless of literacy of social status. In order to accomplish this, Gentileschi does not paint idealized figures, like that of the earlier renaissance paintings, instead the subjects are simple, more full figured and dressed in simple garments which appealed to even the most common people. Painted with chiaroscuro adds grandeur to the piece and this coupled with foreshortening creates a sense of movement and energy which rounded out the illusion that makes the viewer feel as if they are in the very same room witness to the act.
Baroque art in Italy typically portrayed dramatic scen...


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...es of the servant and Judith who appear collected and focused with intense concentration and diligence to the task. By incorporating such dramatic expression on the faces and bodies of the figures the viewer can empathize and almost feel the sheer pain depicted on the face of Holofernes as well as the intensity and urgency of the two women’s task.
Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes epitomizes the style of artwork during the Italian Baroque era. By using a Catholic subject and key elements and techniques essential to baroque art such as chiaroscuro and foreshortening, she was able to create a piece that gushes drama and realism. Without the use of all of these elements the effect would be lost, but instead the piece is one that moves the viewer with its direct and gritty realism of the religious subject, evoking emotion in a way that leaves the viewer in awe.


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