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When Saint John the Baptist was imprisoned by King Herod, Herodias, wife of Herod, persuaded her daughter, Salome, to ask for the Baptist's head on a charger (Mark 6: 17-28).

In this candlelit scene, which shows the influence of Caravaggio and his followers, the bearded and powerfully muscled executioner holds up the saint's head, while Salome, seen in strict classical profile, proffers the plate on which it is to be placed. This is an early work, probably painted in Rome some time in the 1630s. It was copied by the English painter William Dobson in about 1640 (Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery).


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