Judith and Holofernes
Sex and violence at its most confounding. Judith, a Jewish widow from the old testament, saves her village from Holofernes, the general of a conquering army. She does this by befriending and charming the general, then beheading him as he lies in a drunken stupor. Judith is the heroine of Israel and is courted by many suitors after she delivers her people from harm, but chooses to remain alone for the rest of her life.
Depicted just after her life story's most significant action, Judith is a study of contradictions. She's perpetrated an act of galling violence in order to spare others the same fate; her desirability and charm are revealed to be the pragmatic tools of a woman who is neither 'Virgin' nor 'Whore' (in the earliest versions of this story, Judith never sleeps with Holofernes). I think what draws me to the story of Judith is that in the end, it's not a story of seduction or violence, or good versus evil. It's aboutthe complexity of virtue. Nothing is as should be - the mighty are weak, the weak are mighty; the virtuous are violent seducers, the tyrants are betrayed by their trust in others. Do the ends justify the means? Is virtue relative?