D.84 Judith and Holofernes

D.84 Judith and Holofernes


Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, no. M.77.13.

Fig.D.84b bw

Red chalk over traces of black chalk, 23.2 x 19.7; slightly irregularly cut along the right edge; this side of the drawing has probably been cut away by several centimeters, removing much of the maid’s left leg and foot, the very tip of which can be seen in the lower right corner.  Inscribed in pencil in the lower left corner: Rosa.  The face of the old woman is badly rubbed.  There are faint pen lines along the inner side of Judith’s right leg and the outer side of her left leg similar to the pen lines at the edges of the sheet, wm.?

PROVENANCE: Dutch collection1; Eugène Rodrigues (Lugt 897); London, David Carritt.


“La Chronique des Arts,” GdBA, 6th period, XCI, 1978, Supplément, no. 1310, 42, Fig. 190, as Rosso, c. 1527.

Carroll, 1978, cover, Fig., 25, 28, 34, 36, 39, 40, 42, 45, as Rosso, and done around 1538-1540.

Olszewski, 1981, 26, 50-51, no. 26, Fig., as Rosso.

Bialostocki, 1981, 215.

Ebria Feinblatt, “Criteria for Building a Public Graphic Art Collection,” The Journal of the Theory and Criticism of the Visual Arts, Tempe, Arizona, I, 1981, 84, Fig.

Davis, 1984, 18, 19, Fig., 64, no. 67.

K. Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 169, under no. 112, as Rosso.  Carroll, 1987, 11, 31, 364-366, no. 116, with Color Pl., as Rosso, 1540.

Rosand, 1988, 31, Fig., 32.

Miller, 1992, 112.

Scalliérez, 1992, 17, 18, Fig. 11, as possibly related to Rosso’s lost painting of Judith once at Fontainebleau.  Franklin, 1994, 82, 83, Pl. 60, as Rosso, 1519-1520.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 40, under no. 15.

The young woman and the old hag in this drawing are very closely related to many in Rosso’s works, including especially several scenes in the Gallery of Francis I: the Loss of Perpetual Youth (Fig.P.22, II S a), the Twins of Catania (Fig.P.22, V N a), the Cleobis and Biton (Fig.P.22, V S a), and the Venus and Minerva (Fig.P.22, I N b).  With one young woman facing an old one and a third figure, a male nude stretched out horizontal but also at a slight angle to the picture plane, the Judith and Holofernes is compositionally most similar to Rosso’s painting in Los Angeles (Fig.P.24a), probably done in 1540.  The draughtsmanship of this drawing is comparable to that of a number of red chalk drawings by Rosso, including the Standing Nude Woman, in the Uffizi (Fig.D.5), the Virtù Vanquishing Fortune, in Darmstadt (Fig.D.6a), and the St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor, in the Louvre (Fig.D.13).  But it most closely resembles, in the quality of its contours and the texture of its shading, the handling of Rosso’s Empedocles-St. Roch, executed, it would seem, in 1539 or 1540 (Fig.D.80a).

Stylistically and graphically, the Judith and Holofernes is closest to those works by Rosso that appear to have been done very late in his life: the Empedocles-St. Roch and especially the painting in Los Angeles.  There is a grandness but also a peculiar urgency about the confrontation of the two women in the drawing that is very much like what appears between the Virgin and Gabriel in the Düsseldorf Annunciation (Fig.D.83).  It is, therefore, very likely that all three of these works were done about the same time.  Given their resemblance to each other, which is closer than their relation to any other works by Rosso, it is probable that these two drawings and the Los Angeles painting were done at the very end of Rosso’s life, and very possibly within the last year of his life.  The multiple layers of meaning that the drawing conveys differentiate it from the works that he did in Italy, including the Virtù Vanquishing Fortune in Darmstadt (Fig.D.6a).2

The drawing cannot be related to Rosso’s lost painting at Fontainebleau (L.35), as suggested by Scalliérez, because Cassiano dal Pozzo described it as showing Judith clothed.

COPY, DRAWING: Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, no. 7291 (Fig.D.84 Copy, Madrid).  Red chalk, 22.2 x 17.1; a hole at the upper left, and slightly stained here and there; laid down.  Inscribed in ink on the mount at the lower left: A. Caracci, and at the upper right: 30ng.  LITERATURE: Angel Barcia, Catalogo de los Dibujos de la Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, 1906, 497-498, no. 7291, as Annibale Caracci.  Carroll, 1987, 366, n. 5, under no. 216.  Scalliérez, 1992, 17, n. 48.

This drawing is a rather slick but faithful copy of Rosso’s drawing, with the forms slightly broader and more rounded and the whole image somewhat vulgarized by such changes as the more conventional prettiness of Judith’s face and the enlargement of her nipples and those of the maid.  The figure of the maid is cut off just to the left of her left elbow.

This drawing was kindly brought to my attention by H. Th. Colenbrander.


1 There is a long paragraph in Dutch on the old mount stating that the drawing was done in 1576 by Cristofano or Stefano Rosa of Brescia, an attribution that is probably dependent on the inscription on the drawing itself, which, though it reads Rosa, may record imprecisely an earlier attribution of this drawing to Rosso.  I should like to thank Susan Donahue Kuretsky for translating this paragraph for me.  The back of the mount has an illegible name scribbled in pencil.

2 The placement of the small illustration of the Judith and Holofernes alongside that of Rosso’s small Virtù Vanquishing Fortune in Franklin’s book of 1994 (83, Pls. 60, 61) supports the attribution of the two drawings to Rosso but more importantly it seems to have been so arranged to support an argument for their identical dates.  However, the Los Angeles drawing (23.2 x 19.7 cm.) is considerably larger than the Darmstadt sheet (14 x 20.7 cm) and its two major figures extend its full height and its width.  Quite otherwise, the three figures in the other drawing are not only actually smaller but are placed within a significantly larger space, actually and illusionistically.  Thus it is that the manipulation of the sizes of the drawings in relation to each other not only misrepresents their actual differences but also the grandness of one composition against the greater intimacy of the other.  It is the grandness of the Los Angeles composition that so emphatically indicates that it is a much later work by the artist.