Henri Regnault (French, 1843–1871)
Oil on canvas; 63 x 40 1/2 in. (160 x 102.9 cm)
Signed, dated, and inscribed (left center): HRegnault [initials in monogram] / Rome 1870
Gift of George F. Baker, 1916 (16.95)
Regnault initially represented this Italian model as an African woman, but later enlarged the canvas at the bottom and right and transformed it into a representation of Salomé. She is shown after having danced for her stepfather, Herod Antipas, governor of Judaea. The platter and knife allude to the reward she claimed for her performance: the severed head of John the Baptist.
Regnault was killed during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), just months after this picture was exhibited to great acclaim at the Salon of 1870. For years, the painting was considered a masterpiece of contemporary art. In 1912, when it was announced that it would be sold from a private collection, Baron Henri de Rothschild initiated a campaign to keep it in France. He was unsuccessful; Salomé was presented to the Metropolitan by one of the Museum's trustees in 1916.