Giraudon/Art Resource, NY

Esther supplicates (shown here) while Judith decapitates (compare with illustration of Judith decapitating Holofernes), in these two scenes from the manuscript Les Vies des femmes célèbres (The Lives of Famous Women), written by Antoine Dufour in 1504 and illustrated soon after by Parisian artist Jean Pichore.

Despite their many shared characteristics, including beauty, bravery and selflessness, Judith and Esther had one great difference—how they related to men. Esther worked within the patriarchal system to save her people. Here she’s asking her husband, King Ahasuerus, to grant her a favor. Eventually, he will have her enemy Haman, who was plotting to kill the Jews, murdered. Judith takes things into her own hands, killing her nemesis, Holofernes, by herself.

Commissioned by the French queen Anne of Bretagne (wife of Louis XII), Les Vies des femmes célèbres is now in the Musée Dobrée, in Nantes, France.