(active c. 1120 in Toulouse)


c. 1120
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

In addition to modifying antique forms, Romanesque sculptors invented new forms of representation of their own. Their use of capitals as a field for decorative and figurative illustration is a prime example. Decorated capitals are most often found in the crypts of churches, high above the sanctuary, along the nave, and, most importantly, in the cloister.

An ambitious type of capital, is known as historiated: it contains one or more narrative illustrations. The subjects are usually Biblical, but episodes from the lives of saints also form an important theme. The present example of an historiated capital is from the former cloister of the cathedral of St. Étienne in Toulouse. It shows the previously rare subject of the beheading of St John the Baptist. The capital contains four scenes in a narrative: on the left Salome dances before Herod; on the opposite face St John the Baptist is beheaded; on the front face St John's head is handed to Salome on a platter. She in turn presents the head to Herodias.

The picture shows Salome receiving the head of St John the Baptist and presenting it to Herodias at a banquet.