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The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist




The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist


About 1275


Coloured glass, leading


37.5 x 34.9 cm


Gift of Miss Mabel Molson, inv. 1961.Dg.1


Decorative Arts and Design

This glass window is likely a product by the workshop of Sainte-Chapelle working around the city of Tours. The Sainte-Chapelle workshops were largely responsible for the style of stained-glass windows in France after 1240. The colour scheme of red and blue and the way in which the drapery reflects the sweeping lines of Gothic architecture was typical of Sainte-Chapelle workshops. This particular panel would have been a lower window surrounded by a decorative mosaic. The upper corners of the window would have originally been rounded.

Saint John the Baptist had been imprisoned by King Herod for protesting the king’s marriage to Herodias, the widow of his brother. On Herod’s birthday, the dance of Salome, the daughter of Herodias, pleased the king so much that he promised to give her whatever she asked. Salome requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter, and so the Baptist was sentenced to death by beheading. This panel depicts the moment just prior to his execution. With his left hand, the executioner holds the Baptist’s hair, while with his right hand raises the sword above his head, preparing to bring it down on the saint’s neck. Saint John’s expression is sorrowful, while the facial features of the executioner seem to be somewhat distorted to convey a sense of evil.

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