Herodias mutilating the severed head of Saint John the Baptist held by Salome. Oil painting attributed to Pieter de Grebber.
- Grebber, Pieter de, approximately 1600-1652 or 1653.
- [between 1640 and 1649?]
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About this work
Biblical background: according to Saint Luke's gospel in the New Testament of the Bible, Saint John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus Christ and announced Christ's coming. He was imprisoned by Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, for speaking out in public against the morality of Herod Antipas's marriage to Herodias, the former wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. Herodias persuaded her daughter (unnamed in the gospel but traditionally called Salome) to ask her step-father and uncle Herod to give her the head of John the Baptist on a platter, which Herod reluctantly did. As John had foretold, Herod's marriage to Herodias brought his kingdom to destruction through a war against his ex-father-in-law, Aretas IV Philopatris, King of Nabataea, centered on present day Jordan. Herod is said to have retired to France and ended his days in Lyons
Salome holds the severed head of the Baptist while Herodias pierces his tongue with a pin. This rare subject is derived from a sentence of St Jerome's Apologia adversus Rufinum, in which it is adduced as an example of the too-late suppression of the truth. The painting is an example of curious methods of torture and execution (one of the original subjects specified for inclusion in the Wellcome collections), and of the abuse of body-parts