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Saint John the Baptist was beheaded at Herodias's request, and his head was then presented to Salome on a charger (Matthew 14: 1-12). There is some evidence that Leonardo painted a 'Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger' while staying in Milan, and there are many Milanese pictures of the early 16th century of this subject which, like this one, may have been closely derived from Leonardo.

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