Lorenzo Sabatini (c. 1530-1576), an Italian artist working in the Mannerist period of art, created a revolutionary bloody rendering of the biblical story of Judith decapitating Holofernes. The Bolognese artist, and his painting Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne (Judith with the head of Holofernes), has not been extensively written on by scholars, therefore, this study suggests an original interpretation of the artwork. Lorenzo Sabatini would likely have borne witness to a number of decapitations in Bologna, because they were typically executed in public urban courtyards. Maturing in this sort of environment can impact an artist’s life. Through Lorenzo Sabatini’s visual representation, as well as psychoanalytic writings by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the painting Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne, and its shocking composition will support the claim that it alludes to the male fear of strong women and castration anxiety. The Jungian archetypes are common themes that can be found within each period of art history, just as Freud’s theory of castration anxiety has become a timeless archetypal threat. Both of the psychoanalysts’ theories are present within this one sixteenth-century painting. Trepidation of the femme fatale can be found in Lorenzo Sabatini’s gruesome rendering as well as the story found in the Book of Judith.

Date of publication

Fall 12-13-2019

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Elizabeth Lisot-Nelson, Dr. Kaia Magnusen, Alexis Serio Hughes


Masters in Art