Saint John the Baptist was beheaded at the request of Herodias, the wife of Herod, and his head presented to her daughter Salome on a charger. Salome then brought the head to her mother. New Testament (Matthew 14:1-12).
There is another version of identical quality, different only in small details (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), and other versions are recorded elsewhere.
There are four drawings related to the composition of this picture and that in Vienna; some drawings in pigment are also to be seen on the unprimed wood of the reverse of this picture. These do not appear to be related to the composition and may represent Christ appearing to the Magdalen.