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Any old Caravaggios?

Reports from France indicate that someone in Toulouse who went up their attic to fix a leak found an old Caravaggio worth a reputed £94,000,000 lying around.

The picture is rather grim, it shows the Jewish fighter Judith beheading Holofernes, an Assyrian general. It also seems rather close to the bone (as it were) for these times, I would ask Holofernes what he thought, but…

Sadly, the French State gets the first option on buying it.

10 comments to Any old Caravaggios?

  • Squints

    Ask anyway. Like the Scarecrow told Dorothy, “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.”

  • Cristina

    If the model of supply and demand holds true, it can be concluded that the demand for bad taste far exceeds its offer. Who would have imagined?

  • “I would ask Holofernes what he thought, but…”

    Holofernes was in no position to complain (I mean morally – as the poster notes, he’s also in no position to complain literally. 🙂 ). The Assyrians were a rough lot who had nothing to learn from any modern terrorist as regards being very nasty to non-Assyrians, and there was no need to be the Old-Testament-equivalent of a Mossad assassin to be the target of their cruelty. If the very courageous Judith had been caught, beheading might have been the least of her worries.

  • Mr Ed

    Indeed Niall, and for some of our readers, imagine Princess Leia decapitating Darth Vader, but by some accounts, it seems, after getting him to gorge on cheese, a slightly ‘Wallace and Gromit’ touch to the Old Testament.

  • Darrell

    I always thought Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes looked a bit off–she’s holding the sword like a girl, and the blood looks all wrong. She is kinda hot, though. ;^)

  • Paul Marks

    I believe that even Martin Luther (who cut out the Books of the Maccabees out of the Bible because he did not like the politics) left in the Book of Judith – although he might of cut it out, given his view that women should be passive (“either wives or whores” – and nothing else) and the state (even the Ottoman State) should never be resisted. Perhaps it is another “straw” part of the Bible – like the Epistle of James (an “Epistle of Straw” to Mr Luther as it contradicts his view that only faith, not good deeds, matter).

    As for the French state have first refusal on buying the painting.


  • Many years ago, Sister Wendy had a interesting 15-minute programme on two pictures of Judith.

    Artemesia Gentileschi (1593-1653) painted Judith and her servant creeping through the Assyrian camp in the dark, the servant carrying the head covered in a dish (a fold of cloth lets us see it). She imagined that moment, with safety in sight but still the risk of bumping into a guard, as the most terrifying one, and terror is vividly seen on the women’s faces. Judith is a still-beautiful but mature women, and of course she has a servant – she’s a woman of some social status, accustomed to command.

    Cristifano Allori (1577-1621) paints Judith as a pretty 18-year-old in Holofernes tent, swinging his severed head nonchalantly with seemingly no fear it will drip on her fashionable dress – and seemingly no fear that the broad light of day streaming through the open tent aperture will cause any passing Assyrian to ask “Ere, what you doin’ wiv the boss’s ‘ead?” It’s a “ruthless rhymes for heartless homes” picture of someone who can paint well, but hasn’t engaged with his subject.

    The brief programme stuck in my memory as a perfect example of the difference between technical skill (which Cristifano had plenty of) and actually engaging with your subject, actually thinking about it (which Artemesia had done).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, that’s fascinating. Your description of the two paintings, and what you made of the contrast. Thank you very much.

    By the way, the Great Foot tells us that Artemesia Gentileschi made two paintings of “Judith Beheading Holofernes.” See one of them at


    along with another by Caravaggio (scroll down). For one of Allori’s paintings of “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” — WikiFootia says he did several — see

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_beheading_Holofernes .

  • Julie near Chicago

    CORRECTION: “Judith Slaying” must not be the Gentileschi to which Niall refers. Perhaps it is her “Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes,” whose thumbnail is currently on the upper left at


  • Cristina

    Caravaggio is the embodiment of sociopathy in painting. The emotional detachment of his characters from their actions produces an almost visceral revulsion.