CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

The Feast of Herod

Oil and tempera on limewood, 80 x 113 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

The biblical source for the painting is Matthew 14:6-11 or Mark 6:21-28, where the daughter of Herodias danced for her stepfather, Herod, on his birthday. As a reward he promised her anything she wanted and, prompted by her mother, she chose the head of Saint John the Baptist, which she then carried to Herodias on a silver charger.

Cranach's panel shows the scene following the beheading. It is a fine example of the painter's talent as a narrator. The depiction of Herod overcome by his passion and tricked as a result forms part of a group in Cranach's oeuvre portraying the 'duplicity of women.'

Herodias's daughter subsequently became known in literature as Salome, and the theme was memorably treated in the nineteenth century by Richard Strauss and Oscar Wilde amongst others.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 15 minutes):
Richard Strauss: Salome, closing scene