Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist

Albrecht Altdorferc. 1517

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

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.

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  • Title: Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist
  • Creator: Albrecht Altdorfer (German, c. 1480–1538)
  • Date Created: c. 1517
  • Physical Dimensions: 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.)
  • Provenance: Princes of Liechtenstein, Vienna (no stamp; according to inscription on secondary support)., with F. A. Drey, London., The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1948.440
  • Medium: pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash and white gouache; framing lines in pen and black ink
  • Inscriptions: lower right, in brown ink: 17; on paper mounted to recto, lower right, in brown ink: 40; verso of secondary support, center, in graphite: Liechtenstein
  • Fun Fact: The artist colored the paper on this drawing a dark brown in order to emphasize the highlights and shadows created with inks.
  • Department: Drawings
  • Culture: Germany, 16th century
  • Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
  • Collection: DR - German
  • Accession Number: 1948.440

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