A comparative study between the images of Judith and Holofernes and David and Goliath in the history of European art with special reference to the period 1400-1700

Philpot, Elizabeth (1999) A comparative study between the images of Judith and Holofernes and David and Goliath in the history of European art with special reference to the period 1400-1700. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to conduct a comparative study analysing the main similarities and differences in the visual arts between two biblical subjects - namely that of Judith and Holofernes and David and Goliath with special reference to the period 1400-1700 when the greatest number of images was produced, although other periods are also discussed. While carrying out this comparison, the thesis elucidates the reasons why some artists and sculptors produce a near faithful rendition of events described in the Bible and the Apocryphal Book of Judith, while others fail to depict anything remotely true to the biblical texts. The greater emphasis of this study is on works of art in Western Europe where the discussion centres around differing treatments given to these subjects by Northern artists (especially Protestant ones), vis-a-vis their contemporaries in Catholic countries. Consideration is given to the images as regards patronage and the intellectual and religious climate of the period in which the artist worked especially during the Reformation and Counter- Reformation. Judith and David are examined throughout this period in terms of their respective roles in salvation history (Heilsgeschichte). The different typological interpretations and functions of the contents of the paintings and sculptures are also discussed. In order to ascertain how far artists and sculptors have consulted the biblical texts and early source material, the images are evaluated under separate headings which are subdivided into different "types" which appertain to both Judith and David. These can be categorised as images of Judith and David together, as a personification of certain virtues, heroic and triumphant portrayals, contemplative images and where the painter or sculptor uses his or her face for either Judith and David or Holofernes and Goliath. The conclusions show that during the Middle Ages artists conformed to the exegeses of the Early Church Fathers and later theologians in manuscripts, illustrations, sculptures and wall paintings. Later, especially during the Reformation (1534), it was in the Protestant North (particularly in Flanders, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden) that artists of the sixteenth century adhered to biblical texts disseminated by woodcuts, prints and Bibles. This trend of near textual accuracy in pictorial representations is continued during the Counter-Reformation in the North when Protestant painters such as Rembrandt still closely followed the biblical narratives, while in the South (especially in Italy) artists observed the tenets of the Counter-Reformation, the teachings of the newly canonised saints and the individual tastes of patrons.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Alison Jasper
Keywords: Art history
Date of Award: 1999
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1999-71867
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71867

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