History Through Art

(an essay on point of view)


There are as many ways of seeing an event as there are people who witness it. Each person who recounts an historical event will do so within the framework of his or her individual character. It becomes the job of the historian to sort through these differing "points of view" and discover the truth. Following are two painting which will give you the opportunity practice the historical skill of seeking the truth.


1. Write an essay in which you explain the differing "points of view" of the two artists who painted the following scene. Your task is NOT to account for the technique of applying pigment to a surface but rather to develop an explanation as to how and why the artist "sees" the event in the manner in which it is presented.


Historical Background: In Old Testament in versions of the Bible based on the Greek Septuagint, the Book of Judith is included with the Apocrypha in the Authorized and Revised Standard versions; it does not appear at all in the Hebrew Bible. This book, the work of an unknown author, is a fictitious account of the deliverance of Israel from a foreign army by Judith, the devout and beautiful heroine who first beguiled and then beheaded the Assyrian commander Holofernes. The book is dated to the Maccabean period in the 2d century BC. According to the story, Judith, and many of the daughters of Israel, where captured by the Assyrian King Holofernes who used them for his own pleasure. After being abused by Holofernes, Judith took matters into her own hands and while the king rested, she severed his head. Judith came to symbolize the defiance of the People of Israel in their quest for freedom in the ancient world. Artists of the 15th and 16th centuries often turned to Bible for themes for their artistic creations. The title of both paintings is Judith and Holofernes.