The Execution of Saint John the Baptist

Ubaldo Gandolfi Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 643

This oil sketch by a leading painter and sculptor in Bologna was preparatory for a large altarpiece in the Church of San Michele in Vercelli, northwestern Italy. Salome, who set this story in motion by requesting John the Baptist’s head as her reward for dancing for King Herod, is sketched into the left background. Gandolfi’s painting contrasts the taut energy of the executioner as he rolls up his sleeve with the prayerful attitude of the saint, who is surrounded by swooning angels under the eyes of God. This work’s visionary, anticipatory qualities are enhanced by the extreme compression of the figures into a tight space filled with clouds.

The Execution of Saint John the Baptist, Ubaldo Gandolfi (Italian, San Matteo della Decima 1728–1781 Ravenna), Oil on canvas

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