CAIRO, Francesco del
(b. 1607, Milano, d. 1665, Milano)

Herodias with the Head of Saint John the Baptist

c. 1635
Oil on canvas, 114 x 94 cm
Pinacoteca di Vicenza, Vicenza

This painting is one of the best inventions of the painter's early years, still marked chiefly by the expressive tension of the Lombard figurative culture of the turn of the century, and particularly of the models of Cerano and Morazzone.

While the image of Salome alone with John the Baptist's head is quite common in Renaissance painting, the portrayal of Herodias in the same scenario is far rarer. Nevertheless, the theme was one of Cairo's favourites and in his early years he replicated it at least four times. As is the case in the other versions, in the Vicenza canvas the painter offers a very singular interpretation of the scene, characterized by the portrayal of Herodias swooning. Her hand is outstretched towards the saint's severed head, which is in turn distinguished by the surprising motif of his tongue pierced by a needle.