Friday, September 01, 2006

The Beheading of John the Baptist

The image above and the article below is from the Web Gallery of Art:

LUINI, Bernardino
(b. 1480, Luino, d. 1532, Milano)

Tempera on panel, 51 x 58 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Until 1793 the painting was attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Then it was recognised as the work of his Lombardian follower, Luini.

The absence of biographical information on this painter makes a reconstruction of his cultural background somewhat difficult, although his airy perspective constructions would certainly suggest a link with the Venetian school.

Luini was a prolific artist of easel paintings, mostly of religious subjects, with which - as this Herodias reveals - he arrived at a type of classicising painting, rich in chiaroscural intensity, the prelude to an almost North European-style pathos.

The biblical source for the painting is Matthew 14:6-11 or Mark 6:21-8, where the daughter of Herodias danced for her stepfather, Herod, on his birthday. As a reward he promised her anything she wanted and, prompted by her mother, she chose the head of Saint John the Baptist, which she then carried to Herodias on a silver charger. The daughter subsequently became known in literature as Salome, and the theme was memorably treated in the nineteenth century by Richard Strauss and Oscar Wilde amongst others.

The painting was restored in 1977.

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