The Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger (La tête de saint Jean-Baptiste dans le plat)
Although Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist for speaking against his marriage to Herodias, the ruler admired the Baptist as a wise and righteous man.
On the occasion of Herod’s birthday, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, dances before the guests, pleasing the host so much that he promises her anything she wants. Tissot notes that he found inspiration for his image of Salome’s acrobatic dance in ancient reliefs from sources as diverse as Egypt, India, and Persia as well as the reliefs of the Cathedral of Rouen in his native France.
To Herod’s dismay, the young woman, following her mother’s wish, demands the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although loath to kill the Baptist, Herod reluctantly accedes to this request. In the second image shown here, Tissot adds a further macabre flourish: drawing on a tradition related by Saint Jerome, Herodias pierces the tongue of the dead Baptist as revenge for his rebukes of her profligacy.
Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Image: 4 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (11.1 x 18.7 cm)
Sheet: 4 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (11.1 x 18.7 cm)
Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm) (show scale)
Signed bottom center: "J.J. Tissot"
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James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger (La tête de saint Jean-Baptiste dans le plat), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 4 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (11.1 x 18.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.132 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.132_PS1.jpg)
overall, 00.159.132_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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