- Museum number
- Object: The Beheading of John the Baptist
Icon; painted; on the left is John holding an open scroll and being led from his prison by a soldier; to the right, his beheaded body, dressed in a goatskin, leans forward with his hands tied before him; behind him is a soldier, wearing a hat and mantle, raising a sword. Below is a cave containing a chalice with John's decapitated head. In the upper centre, are Christ and an angel.
Inscriptions: in Church Slavonic on the upper border: УСЕКНОВЕНИЕ ГЛАВЫ С(ВЯТОГО) ИОАННА ПРЕДТЕЧИ (Beheading of St John the Forerunner); in Greek by Christ's head: ΙC ΧC (Jesus Christ); in Church Slavonic by the angel: АНГЕЛ ГОСПОДЕНЬ (Angel of Our Lord); by the figures at left: СВЯТОЙ ИОАНН (St John), ВОИН (Soldier); on John's scroll: СЕ АГНЕЦ БОЖИЙ ВЗЕМ ГРЕХН… (Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world; John 1:29); above his decapitated head: С(ВЯТАЯ) Г(ОЛОВА) ИОАННА ПРЕДТЕЧИ (Holy Head of John Forerunner).
Egg tempera, gesso on wood.
- Production date
Height: 32.30 centimetres
Weight: 0.90 kilograms
Width: 26.70 centimetres
Depth: 2.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- John the Baptist (d. c. 30), the ‘forerunner’ of Jesus Christ, was the son of Zachariah, a Temple priest, and his wife Elizabeth, who was a cousin of the Virgin Mary. John himself baptized Christ and acknowledged him as the Messiah. When John denounced the incestuous marriage of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, and Herodias he was arrested, imprisoned and executed (Matthew 14:1–12)
In both Byzantine and Russian iconography John the Baptist is normally depicted as a hermit in the wilderness wearing a goatskin and ‘himation’; he is often winged, a type called the ‘Angel of Wilderness’. In Russian art of the 17th century narrative versions of John the Baptist became more popular and include such subjects as his beheading; this scene starts to appear on smaller icons. The Museum’s icon follows the iconographic tradition in its rendering of several scenes on the same panel. The iconography is ultimately derived from Matthew 14:1–12.
Cormack 2007, 130, no. 71
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015 15 Sep-10 Jan, USA, Norfolk, Chrysler Museum of Art, Byzantium to Russia: The origins and development of Russian icons 1200 to 1900.
2015 30 Apr- 22 Aug, USA, Clinton, Museum of Russian Icons, Byzantium to Russia: The origins and development of Russian Icons 1200 to 1900.
- Made from a single panel with ‘kovcheg’; two inserted battens on the reverse; the original painting was partly restored in the 19th century. There is a crack along the edge of the right border. The icon was possibly part of a larger ‘vita’ icon which was subsequently transferred onto a new panel.
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Beheading of St John the Baptist
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See 1998,0605.1 Most of the items catalogued under 1998,0605 were acquired by Sir Frank Roberts’ wife, Cella.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: IC 72 (Icon Collection number)