The Beheading of John the Baptist

Benozzo Gozzoli, The Feast of Herod and the Beheading of John the Baptist, 1461–62. Tempera (?) on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Benozzo Gozzoli (1421–97), an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence, uses his storytelling prowess here to depict the story of Salome. Gazzoli uses intense color and vigorous action to create drama and interest in this composition. Central to the narrative story is Salome, depicted in a billowing dress, twirling her arms and legs in dance. She holds Herod’s rapt attention as he watches from behind the dinner table, placing his arm over his heart. According to the biblical story, Herod was so taken by her performance that he promised Salome anything she wanted. Influenced by her mother, Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist. John appears kneeling in the lower left as the executioner raises his sword at Herod’s order. In the background, Salome kneels at her mother’s lap, presenting her with the severed head.

Benozzo Gozzoli, The Feast of Herod and the Beheading of John the Baptist, 1461–62. Tempera (?) on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

A written, spoken, or recorded story.

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.