(b. ca. 1465, ?, d. 1519, Palencia)

Herodias' Revenge

Oil on wood, 75 x 50,4 cm
Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

Herod and Herodias sit at a table in a Renaissance interior. Salome presents the severed head of John the Baptist to them on a platter. Herod recoils from the atrocity, but Herodias holds a knife ready to pierce John's tongue in revenge for the saints's denunciation of her sinful behaviour.

The panel belonged to an altarpiece devoted to the story of John the Baptist which was painted in 1496 for the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores near Burgos. The original form of the altarpiece has been partially reconstructed. Its central panel was the Baptism of Christ, now in a Madrid collection. Each wing consisted of at lest two panels placed one on top of the other.

Although the work of Juan de Flandes is not really Southern Netherlandish in character, we nevertheless detect the clear influence of painters from Ghent and Bruges, especially Hugo van der Goes. He uses painterly techniques to create a strange atmosphere. The bright lighting and accentuation of the green, red and orange sections generate a nervous tension. Placing the main protagonists in the foreground lends the scene an expressive aura and a pronounced monumentality, which is further heightened by the dramatic movement, the sharply delineated forms and the realistic appearance of the figures.

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