This is to show the the idea of contrast that Caravaggio uses. This is one of my personal favorites, as the scene is so complex. Here’s a crash course:
Essentially Holofernes was a general who was oppressing a village. Judith took her maid, snuck into the camp, seduced him, cut his head off, and saved her people.
1. The blood coming out of his neck is in fact an accurate depiction, even though it seems fake
2. He is genuinely shocked and is in a more vulnerable position as he props up to try and defend himself.
3. His eyes have a light in them, meaning some innocence in the matter
4. Judith’s eyes are darkened showing guilt
5.The pink tint to her cheeks and nose denote some internal irritation. She is not completely comfortable with this even though it means saving her people.
6. Her body is strangely positioned so that her lower half is closer to him. This is to note that she is sexually attracted to him, which enhances her uncertainty.
7. According to the legend, Holofernes was an ugly brute of a man, but here is actually kind of attractive.
8. The over all impression is that this painting is to promote the idea that the true nature of things is not always what history would have us believe.
I LOVE IT.