The story of Judith is told in the Old Testament Apocryphal Book of Judith (13: 6-10). Nebuchadnezzar's general Holofernes and the Assyrinan army were besieging the town of Bethulia in Judah. Judith realised that the town would fall and went out of the Assyrian camp to save her people. When she was left alone with the general in his tent after he had consumed a great quantity wine and had fallen asleep, she took down his sword and cut off his head.

In this picture, the body of Holofernes lies on the bed and the maid puts his head into a sack. The prominence of the figure of Judith, the portrait character of her face, her dress, and the subsidiary position of the maid and the head of Holofernes make it likely that this is a portrait of a young woman in the guise of the Jewish heroine.

Eglon van der Neer was the son of the landscape painter Aert van der Neer, whose work is also represented in the National Gallery's collection. He eventually became court painter to the Elector Palatine and produced genre and history paintings, as well as portraits and landscapes.

Key facts

Artist dates
1634? - 1703
Full title
Date made
about 1678
Medium and support
Oil on oak
32 x 24.6 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number
Location in Gallery