Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Galizia Fede

(Milan c. 1578 - c. 1630)

The work, signed and dated on the edge of the basin, comes from the legacy of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati. It depicts the beautiful and courageous Judith, the notorious protagonist of one of the most popular Old Testament episodes. According to the Bible, the woman managed to seduce Holofernes, an Assyrian general, by entering his tent at night, and then beheading him with the help of a servant.

Particularly expert at rendering fabrics and ornaments, a skill learned in the workshop of her father Nunzio, Fede Galizia depicts the young heroine, a symbol of strength and freedom against the oppressor, as she proudly shows off the decapitated head of the enemy, caught in a golden basin by the maidservant.

Object details

oil on canvas
141 x 108 cm

Salvator Rosa, 143 x 117.5 x 7.5 cm.


Rome, collection of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati, 1612 (Inv. Salviati 1612, p. 8, no. 7 in Della Pergola 1959); Inv. 1693, room VII, no. 393; Inv. 1700, room X, no. 12; Inv. 1790, room X, no. 35; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 20; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Nel bordo del catino: "FEDE GALIZIA. F. 1601".
  • 1958 Zurigo, Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft;
  • 2008 Milano, Castello Sforzesco;
  • 2018-2019 Gand, Musée des Beaux Arts;
  • 2020-2021 Milano, Palazzo Reale;
  • 2021 Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1892 (restauro non documentato);
  • 1922 Francesco Cochetti (piccoli restauri, stuccatura e verniciatura);
  • 1977 Gianluigi Colalucci (restauro completo e rifoderatura);
  • 2001 Paola Mastropasqua (rimozione delle vecchie vernici; restauro della cornice).


A work depicting “Judith holding Holofernes’s head with a maid handing her said head, without frame” is mentioned for the first time in Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati’s inventory in 1612. Identified by Paola della Pergola (1959; Id. 1960) with this painting, it was documented as part of the Borghese Collection as early as 1693, but mistakenly described as “A Judith by Lavinia Fontana.” With this attribution, embraced by Carlo Fea (1820) and Xavier Barbier de Mountalt (1870), the canvas was registered both in the Inventario Fidecommissario (1833) and in Giovanni Piancastelli’s records (1891). It was not returned to Fede Galizia’s catalogue until 1893, when, after an undocumented restoration, Adolfo Venturi was able to detect the date and the artist’s signature on the rim of the basin.

This work, which depicts the famous Biblical heroine, her features void of emotion to indicate the inscrutability of the divine design (see Marubbi 2021), is noteworthy for the refinedness of certain details, such as the lavishness of the dress worn by the young woman. The latter speaks to the fame achieved by the workshop of Nunzio Galizia, the artist’s father, which specialized in paintings and miniatures, as well as in the creation of splendid ceremonial gowns and theatre costumes (Berra 1990; Morandotti 2004-05). This was a subject dear to Galizia, who depicted it on many an occasion, beginning with a small canvas, Mannerist in taste, that is possibly her first exploration of the theme and can be dated in the first half of the 1590s (Ferro 2019; Marubbi 2021). 

Our canvas was reproduced five times by the painter, though she was careful to make each reproduction slightly different, adding or eliminating certain details according to the custom of variatio, which she had previously applied in many other circumstances, especially in her many still lifes (see Marubbi 2021).

According to Mario Marubbi (2021), the oldest of the six versions is the one found at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, signed and dated 1596 (for a different opinion, cf. Caroli 1989, Gianneschi 2000, and Ferro 2019), followed by two examples of “Giudit bejewelled with Holofernes’s head in a basin,” both documented in Turin in 1635, one of which is still present in the collection of Palazzo Reale (inv. 5478). The second version differs from the others – with the exception of the Sarasota painting – because it is lacking the pink slip visible on the figure’s leg and Judith is wearing a ring on her left ring-finger, a detail that returns in a copy that is part of a private collection (Caroli 1989, p. 90, pl. 42). The series continues with the Borghese painting and is ideally completed by the canvas preserved at the Palacio Real de la Granja de San Ildefonso (Redín Michaus 2016), which belonged to Elisabetta Farnese and is the most recent of the six.  

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. B. Pinarolo, Trattato delle cose più memorabili di Roma, tante antiche, come moderne, II, Roma, Antonio de Rossi, 1700, p. 73;
  • C. Fea, Nuova descrizione di Roma, Roma 1820, p. 482;
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 359, n. 95;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 173; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 109; 
  • G. Lafenestre, E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe. Rome. Les Musées, les Collections particulières, les Palais, Paris 1905, p. 28, n. 165;
  • J.A. Rusconi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Bergamo 1906, p. 85; 
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 165; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 193; 
  • A. De Rinaldis, Documenti inediti per la Storia della R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, I, Le opere d’arte sequestrate al Cavalier d’Arpino, in “Archivi”, III, 1936, p. 206;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Documenti inediti per la Storia della R. Galleria Borghese in Roma. III: Un Catalogo della Quadreria Borghese nel Palazzo a Campo Marzio redatto nel 1760, in “Archivi”, III-IV, 1937, p. 232, n. 35;
  • A. Pigler, Barockthemen. Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, I, Budapest 1956, p. 195; 
  • U. Isler-Hungerbühler, in Die Frau als Künstlerin, Weke aus vier Jahrhunderten, catalogo della mostra (Zürich, Helmaus, 1958), Zürich 1958, p. 11, n. 18, fig. 43;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 27-28, n. 30; 
  • P. della Pergola, Gli Inventari Salviati, in “Arte antica e moderna”, X, 1960, p. 195, n. 119, doc. 64:
  • S. Bottari, Fede Galizia, in "Settimane culturali storiche-umanistiche. Discorsi e relazioni", VIII, 1960-1961, pp. 253-255;
  • S. Bottari, Fede Galizia, in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXIV, 1963, pp. 309-318; 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 462, n. 393;
  • S. Bottari, Fede Galizia Pittrice (1575-1630), Trento 1965, pp. 12, 14, 28, n. 14; 
  • R. Ruotolo, Un dipinto ignoto di Fede Galizia, in "Paragone", CCLXV, 1968, p. 65;
  • G. Greer, Le tele di Penelope. Le donne e la pittura attraverso i secoli, Milano 1979, pp. 217, 229;
  • G. Agosti, La perizia dei quadri Borghese documentata nell’Archivio della Galleria. Adolfo Venturi ed altri tra scienza dell’arte e interessi ministeriali, in "Ricerche di Storia dell’Arte", XXIII, 1984, p. 65;
  • M. Bona Castellotti, La pittura lombarda del Seicento, Milano 1985, tav. 103;
  • F. Caroli, Fede Galizia, Torino 1989, pp. 20, 82, n. 3, p. 90; 
  • N. Ward Neilson, Galizia, Fede, in La pittura in Italia. Il Seicento, II, Milano 1989, ad vocem;
  • G. Berra, La natura morta nella bottega di Fede Galizia, in "Osservatorio delle Arti", V, 1990, p. 58;
  • D. Spadaro, F. Caroli, Galizia, Fede, in Dictionary of Women Artists, a cura di D. Gaze, I, London-Chicago 1997, pp. 564-566;
  • M.E. Massimi, Galizia, Fede, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, LI, 1998, p. 500;
  • G. Ginnaneschi, in Il Cinquecento lombardo. Da Leonardo a Caravaggio, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 2000-2001), a cura di F. Caroli, Milano 2000, p. 464;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 382; 
  • B. Uppenkamp, Judith und Holofernes in der italienischen Malerei des Barock, Berlin 2004, pp. 94-95, 237, n. 50;
  • A. Morandotti, Inventare una famiglia. Un pezzo di bravura nella Milano di Federico Borromeo, in "Nuovi Studi", XI, 2004-2005, pp. 217-218;
  • S. Partsch, Galizia, Fede, in Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon. Die Bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, XLVII, 2005, p. 496;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 58;
  • P. Strada, Madonna Fede Galizia. Il Noli me tangere di Brera. Capolavori e riscoperte, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Pinacoteca di Brera, 2013-2014), a cura di S. Coppa, P. Strada, Milano 2013, pp. 45-46, 50;
  • G. Redín Michaus, in De Caravaggio a Bernini. Obras maestras del Seicento italiano en las Colleciones Reales, catalogo della mostra (Madrid, Palacio Real, 2016), a cura di G. Redín Michaus, Madrid 2016, pp. 130-132;
  • A. Tapié, in De Dames van de barok, catalogo della mostra (Gent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2018-2019), a cura di A. Tapié, Gent 2018, pp. 104-105, n. 21;
  • F.M. Ferro, Un’inedita Giuditta e Oloferne di Fede Galizia, in "Arte lombarda", CLXXXVI-CLXXXVII, 2019, pp. 145-146; 
  • M. Marubbi, in Le Signore dell’Arte. Storie di donne tra ’500 e ’600, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 2021), a cura di A.M. Bava, G. Mori, A. Tapié, Milano 2021, p. 323;
  • G. Agosti, J. Stoppa, in Fede Galizia. Mirabile pittoressa, catalogo della mostra (Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, 2021), a cura di G. Agosti, J. Stoppa, Trento 2021, pp. 142-144, n. 18.