(Dutch, c. 1600–1667)
Oil on wood
Framed: 92 x 76.5 x 4 cm (36 1/4 x 30 1/8 x 1 9/16 in.); Unframed: 71 x 54.6 cm (27 15/16 x 21 1/2 in.)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noah L. Butkin 1975.79
The pommel of the executioner's sword is decorated with a grotesque head, suggesting an ancient or exotic setting for this event.
The colorful, exotic garments worn by the woman at the right demonstrate Jacob Duck’s skill in painting luxurious surfaces: she is Salome, daughter of Herodias. According to the New Testament, Herodias bore a grudge against John the Baptist, who condemned her marriage to Herod, ruler of Galilee and Perea. At a celebration dinner, Salome so charmed Herod with her dancing that he offered her anything she desired—and Herodias convinced Salome to demand John the Baptist’s head. Rather than depicting the actual execution, Duck focused on the executioner’s muscled physique as he departs the scene, turning to look at the viewer after having presented Salome with John’s severed head.
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