Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist

Large painting of woman, in gold and pink dress, placing severed head on platter.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Large painting of woman, in gold and pink dress, placing severed head on platter.

Date:

c. 1639/42

Artist:

Guido Reni
Italian, 1575-1642

About this artwork

In this large canvas, Guido Reni, a leading seventeenth-century Bolognese painter, depicted one of the New Testament’s more macabre stories. Salome, the daughter of Queen Herodias, so pleased her stepfather, Herod Antipas, by dancing at his birthday feast that he promised to grant her any wish. Prompted by her vengeful mother, Salome asked for the head of the prophet John the Baptist, whom Herod had imprisoned for denouncing his marriage. The painting illustrates the moment when the head of the saint is presented to the beautiful young woman. Highly selective in his palette, Reni depicted this gory event with rhythmic grace, soft modeling, and elegant remove. No blood drips from John’s head, and the color and illumination are cool; indeed, there is no specific setting, nor are any strong emotions depicted. In this late work, the handling of the figures is broad, especially in the legs of the young page and the feet of Salome, which are only summarily brushed in. This raises the central, unresolved question of much of Reni’s late work: whether or not this picture should be considered finished.

On View

European Painting and Sculpture, Gallery 211

Artist

Guido Reni

Title

Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist

Origin

Italy

Date

1635–1645

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

248.5 × 174 cm (97 3/4 × 68 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Louise B. and Frank H. Woods Purchase Fund

Reference Number

1960.3

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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