Herod’s Feast and the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

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Herod’s Feast refers to the episode in the Gospels after the beheading of St. John the Baptist, when Salome dedicates his head to her parents. The Gospel of Mark records that King Herod held a banquet on his birthday for his high officials and military generals, as well as for the leaders of Galilee. At this banquet Herod’s daughter danced before him, and Herod was delighted and offered her whatever she asked for in return. The girl asked her mother what she should ask for, and she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist. With great reluctance, Herod ordered the beheading of John, whose head was “on a plate” at her request and delivered to her. This scene was very popular in art, especially in the 19th century; it became even more popular after Oscar Wilde’s play “Salome” (1891) invented the concept of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Today we are showing something different – a Renaissance painting by the stunning Benozzo Gozzoli. The painting is part of the applique of the altarpiece of the religious guild Compagnia della Purificazione. Gozzoli depicts three simultaneous biblical stories: Herod’s banquet scene, the beheading of St. John the Baptist, and the presentation of St. John’s head to Queen Herodias. This method of representation is typical of Gothic art, but also appeared in the Renaissance. The artist uses strong geometric architectural features to distinguish different events.

See how Gozzoli presents Dancing Salome! I like this piece.

PS Benozzo Gozzoli is also the author of a stunning series of frescoes in the Chapel of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi, depicting festivals, vibrant processions, detailed depictions and markedly international Gothic influence of wind. This is a must-see in Florence. Speaking of which…we’ve launched our new “DailyArt” course focusing on Florentine Renaissance art ! 🙂 And, if Florence wasn’t enough, we’ve got a short guide to the Italian Renaissance in our DailyArt magazine!

23.8 x 34.5 cm


National Gallery of Art

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