Russian icon | Beheading of St John the Forerunner

Icon: Beheading of St John the Forerunner T-19

Northern Russia, 17th century
Tempera on wood, 31 x 24 cm

St John the Forerunner is the most important orthodox Christian saint, after the Mother of God. The icon shows the beheading of St John in different scenes which are not clearly delineated but flow seamlessly into one another. In the lower left corner, St John leaves prison, his hands raised in prayer. To the right, the executioner, depicted against a rocky landscape, raises his sword. St John is looking up to a blue segment of heaven in the upper right corner, where the blessing hand of Christ appears. The decapitated head lies in a chalice in the lower right corner. In the upper part of the icon, the executioner hands over the head of St John to Salomé, the daughter of Herodias. To the left Salomé presents the head of St John to her mother Herodias, who had asked for it as a reward for Salomé’s dance. It had been Herodias’ vengeful request, after St John had denunciated King Herod for having left his own wife in order to live with his brother’s wife Herodias.