The Execution of Saint John the Baptist

Ubaldo Gandolfi Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 622

This work, by a leading painter of eighteenth-century Bologna, is an oil sketch for a large altarpiece in the church of San Michele, Vercelli, midway between Milan and Turin. Gandolfi has endowed the scene with a visionary quality. The contrast between the executioner rolling up his sleeve and the prayerful attitude of the saint, surrounded by swooning angels, is especially poignant. Salome, who set this story into motion by requesting John the Baptist’s head as her reward for dancing for King Herod, is sketched into the left background. She carries the silver platter on which she asked that his head be presented to her.

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

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