Head of St. John the Baptist
Jacques Canonici (1948)
This terracotta represents the head of Saint John the Baptist after his beheading, placed on a tray to be shown to Herod. According to the Gospel, Herod Antipas had the saint arrested following his open criticism of his marriage to Herodias, former wife of his half-brother Philip the Tetrarch. During a banquet in his honour, Herodias' daughter Salome performed a voluptuous dance that impressed Herod so much that he promised to fulfil her every wish. The girl, convinced by her mother, asked for the head of the Baptist on a platter. As with the head of Polyphemus in the collection, here too we are confronted with the theme of despair and suffering, in this case slightly alleviated by the subject's death - although his eyes are still half-open – in contrast with the head of the Cyclops, which is shown in full agony. In both cases, Canonici demonstrates great skill and expressive immediacy in capturing the most dramatic moments of his subjects.