Judith with the head of Holofernes
Malines or Bourg-en-Bresse, c. 1525/1528
Alabaster, partly polychromed
H. 29.5 cm
Formerly in the collection of Ambras castle. Assigned from the Königliche Vereinigte Sammlungen in 1857
Inv. No. R 204
This statuette was most likely executed for an art-minded collector. It can be enjoyed from all sides, and its richness in detail invites viewers to hold it in their hands to study it closely. The sculptor Conrat Meit is known to have worked for the leading patrons of his time. His signature, prominently placed on the pedestal, speaks both of pride in having created such an oeuvre and of owning such a masterpiece. Meit was one of the first sculptors north of the Alps to make a female nude the main subject of his art. The subject itself would not have required nudity at all: depicted here is the beautiful Jewish widow Judith, who infiltrated the camp of the Assyrians besieging Israel. She beheaded the enemy commander and thus saved her people.