Dangerous Women

The Legacy of Caravaggio's Judith

Baroque painters were fascinated by the dangerous women of the Old and New Testaments, the femmes fatales whose lethal beauty and erotic wiles lured men towards destruction or even death. While Judith and Jael were cast as heroines who seduced the enemy and committed bloody acts to liberate the Israelites from their oppressors, treacherous temptresses Delilah and Salome used the same means to perfidious ends. Baroque artists explored these narratives with their characteristic flair for the dramatic and penchant for the macabre, foregrounding complex issues around female virtue, beauty, sexuality, rage, and power whose relevance endures today.


Watch our new video on Caravaggio’s influence on cinema’s femme fatale here.


Read the catalogue of for the Ringling Museum’s exhibition ‘Dangerous Women’ here.


Visit the North Carolina Museum of Art’s new acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s Judith and Holofernes here.


See Robilant+Voena’s exhibition featuring biblical Dangerous Women and Kehinde Wiley’s modern descendant here.


Well versed in Dangerous Women? Take our quiz


View PDF