Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

A demure Judith holds the bloody head of the Assyrian commander Holofernes in this oil painting (c. 1530) by German artist Lucas Cranach, whose work also appears on this issue’s cover. Judith (whose book is part of the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but is considered apocryphal by Jews and Protestants) is a respected widow of Bethulia who objects to the city elders’ plans to surrender to the invading Assyrian army. Promising her townsmen she will deliver the town from its enemies, she enters the enemy camp, pretending to be sympathetic to the Assyrian cause. The Jews have sinned against God, she lies to Holofernes, and thus deserve defeat.

Taken in by her beauty, Holofernes repeatedly invites Judith to his banquet table, but she refuses until he finally invites her to bring her own food and dine with him alone. When he passes out from too much drink, Judith beheads him and walks home with the head in her food bag. This biblical Bond girl’s powerful mix of beauty and disinformation saves the day. The Bethulians swiftly rout the panicked, leaderless Assyrians.