The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Painting depicting moment after beheading, executioner and man watch as soldier lifts severed head.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Painting depicting moment after beheading, executioner and man watch as soldier lifts severed head.

Date:

1455/60

Artist:

Giovanni di Paolo
Italian, 1398–1482

About this artwork

Among the most impressive achievements of the Sienese master Giovanni di Paolo
is his narrative series of twelve panels illustrating the life of Saint John the Baptist—from his birth, prophecy, and the baptism of Christ through his beheading at the request of Salome. These scenes are enacted in complex settings that exploit the tall, slender proportions of the panels and set off the expressive poses of the figures. The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist depicts the henchmen of Queen Herodias placing his head on a golden platter. The execution has just occurred; blood spews profusely from the elongated neck of the saint. The rich patterning of the architecture, painted in a light, delicate palette, contrasts with the gruesome trails of blood falling to the ground and collecting beneath the decapitated corpse. The distant landscape was inspired by the hills around Siena. Throughout the series, Giovanni skillfully repeated colors, settings, and patterns to create a unified narrative. Eleven of the original twelve panels survive, six of which are in the Art Institute. The panels were arranged in three rows to form two large, movable doors, possibly once enclosing a sculpture or relic.

On View

European Painting and Sculpture, Gallery 204

Artist

Giovanni di Paolo

Title

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Origin

Italy

Date

1455–1460

Medium

Tempera on panel

Dimensions

68.6 × 39.1 cm (27 × 15 3/8 in.); painted surface: 66.3 × 36.6 cm (26 1/16 × 14 7/16 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Reference Number

1933.1014

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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