Judith marble square stone base ca 1880 ht. 30.5 in.
Moses Jacob Ezekiel was born in Richmond, Virginia. Before launching his career as an artist, Ezekiel entered the Virginia Military Institute and fought for the Confederacy. In the late 1860s, Ezekiel and his family relocated to Cincinnati, where he studied sculpture under Thomas Dow Jones (1811-1881). In 1869, he moved to Berlin, Germany to attend classes at the Royal Academy of Art, where he met the influential German sculptor Albert Wolff (1814-1892). Thanks to his bas-relief sculpture titled Israel, Ezekiel became, in 1873, the recipient of the prestigious "Prix de Rome." The stipend from the award allowed him to travel to Rome in order to perfect his sculpting abilities. Ezekiel chose to settle permanently in the Italian capital, residing there until his death, while visiting Cincinnati multiple times during the course of his life.
This outstanding bust of Judith is the exact replica of the sculpture, also by Ezekiel, that is on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum. An unusual depiction of the Biblical character of Judith, this work only shows the armless woman's face and bare bosom, her right shoulder nonetheless suggesting that she might be brandishing something, perhaps the head of Holofernes. Judith is indeed known for liberating her city, Bethulia, from the yoke of the Assyrian general, whom she beheaded. In the Western artistic tradition, she is commonly portrayed holding Holofernes' head, with her maid by her side.