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Eglon Hendrik van der Neer, Judith

Key facts
Full title Judith
Artist Eglon Hendrik van der Neer
Artist dates 1634? - 1703
Date made about 1678
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 32 × 24.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2535
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Eglon Hendrik van der Neer

A lavishly dressed young woman lights up Eglon van der Neer’s picture, her sumptuous silk and brocade dress contrasting strongly with the dark background. Decorated with pearls, it seems to be the star of the show. But a longer look at the painting reveals a sword in the woman’s right hand and, more gruesomely, a second figure lowering a head into a bag. Van der Neer has portrayed this young woman as Judith, the Old Testament heroine who famously seduced and decapitated Holofernes, the Assyrian general who was leading an attack on her town.

Judith’s heroism and beauty would have made her an obvious role model for the sitter, who decided to have herself portrayed in her guise. Van der Neer, however, seems to have been more occupied with capturing the qualities of the woman’s dress than with the biblical story’s narrative elements.

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