Author: Artemisia Gentileschi
Title: Jael and Sisera
Dimensions: 86 × 125 cm
Support: Oil on canvas
Sisera was a warlord to Jabin, the king of Canaan who had been oppressing the Israelites for many years. But under the leadership of Barak and Deborah the Israelites finally succeed in slaying Jabin’s army. Sisera runs and seeks refuge in the tent of Jael. The families of Jael’s husband and Jabin were friends, so Sisera thought he would be safe. Jael invites him with great hospitality. At peace he falls asleep. Jael then takes a tent peg and drives it into Sisera’s head.
Contemporaries of Artemisia Gentileschi often showed Jael as a treacherous temptress. They didn’t really know what to think of this woman who acted without the knowledge and consent of her husband. The Bible does not pass a clear judgement either. But Gentileschi shows her as a predecessor of Judith, the undisputed heroin who also killed an enemy warlord to save her people.