barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


PIERRE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES (1824 – 1898)

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Paris, 1869

Oil on canvas

 

Salome, to the right, witnesses the execution of Saint John; she holds a dish to receive his severed head.  In the biblical story Salome’s dance enchanted Herod and his wife Herodias, who persuaded her husband to have the saint executed.

The artist painted two versions of this dramatic subject, full of exotic details and complex symbolism.  Puvis uses a deliberately archaic style which heightens our sense of witnessing a mysterious event from the past.  The symmetrical composition is simplified in form, like an icon, with the figures frozen and purged of emotion.

 

Purchased 1956 (No.56.5)

Unknown Italian Artist

The Madonna and Child Enthroned (centre); Saint John the Baptist, with the Angel of the Annunciation (left); Saint Mary Magdalene, with the Madonna Annunciate (right)

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Simone Martini (about 1284 – 1344)

Saint John the Evangelist

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NERI DI BICCI (1419 – about 1491)

Saint John the Baptist Leaving for the Desert

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Giovanni Battista Cima, called Cima da Conegliano (1459/60 – 1517/18)

Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist

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