Dec 19, 2013

Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist

Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist

c. 1517

Albrecht Altdorfer

(German, c. 1480–1538)

Pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash and white gouache; framing lines in pen and black ink

Support: Laid paper prepared with dark brown ground, laid down on cream(3) laid paper; window mount of cream(3) laid paper mounted to recto

Sheet: 19.1 x 12.6 cm (7 1/2 x 4 15/16 in.); Secondary Support: 20 x 13 cm (7 7/8 x 5 1/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1948.440


Did you know?

The artist colored the paper on this drawing a dark brown in order to emphasize the highlights and shadows created with inks.


Salome's story is described in the biblical Gospels of Mark and Matthew. After dancing for King Herod of Galilee, her new stepfather, she was granted any wish she desired. Influenced by her mother, Herodias, she asked that John the Baptist--who was then imprisoned for condemning Herod and Herodias' marriage--be executed. Here, Salome enacts the most gruesome part of the story, presenting the prophet's head on a platter. In the Renaissance, the story was believed to presage the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the presentation of the Eucharist during Catholic liturgy. Altdorfer's drawing emphasizes Salome's pride--a dangerous sin--through her elaborate garments, billowing, plumed headdress, and flowing long hair. He articulated these details using black ink highlighted with white gouache on paper darkened with brown wash and a finely pointed pen.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email [email protected].

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.