Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist
Jacques Stella (Lyon 1596 - Paris 1657)
This painting, on precious slate, depicts a story from the book of Matthew in the Bible, when Salome, who has danced for King Herod, is offered anything she wishes. Her mother, Herodias, had asked her to request the head of John the Baptist, which she does. The King, bound by his promise, fulfilled her wish. Stella – or Stellaert – was of Flemish stock, but born in Lyons. He went to Italy when young, at first, by 1616, to Florence – where he probably learnt the art of painting on hardstones – and then, around 1622/3, to Rome, where he stayed until 1634, and befriended Poussin, who strongly influenced his later style. Although this picture must have been painted after he had settled in Paris for the rest of his life, it is still strongly Italianate in character.
Oil painting on slate, Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist by Jacques Stella (Lyon 1596 - Paris 1657), signed near bottom left on skirting: Stella f / 1637. In a marble and stone interior, Salome, dressed in blue with a red mantle, stands at a doorway and directs her maid, dressed in blue with a pink mantle, who mounts a step whilst carrying the Baptist’s head in a salver, a soldier in armour standing behind her. In the left foreground, a figure in shadow pulls back the curtain from the doorway and acts as a repoussoir. This painting depicts the biblical story from the book of Matthew, when Salome, who has danced for King Herod, is offered anything she wishes. Her mother, Herodias, had asked her to request the head of John the Baptist, which she does. The King, bound by his promise, fulfilled her wish.
Possibly commissioned by William Murray (c. 1600 - 1655); in 1683 valuation and thence by descent until acquired in 1948 by HM Government when Sir Lyonel, 4th Bt (1854 – 1952) and Sir Cecil Tollemache, 5th Bt (1886 – 1969) presented Ham House to the National Trust, and entrusted to the care of the Victoria & Albert Museum, until 1990, when returned to the care of the National Trust, and to which ownership was transferred in 2002
Ham House, The Dysart Collection (purchased by HM Government in 1948 and transferred to the National Trust in 2002)
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: In brown ink on old label: 1010; in blue ink on laid paper label: 3; on label: B/2696; in chalk: 61; 11; and 2
Makers and roles
Jacques Stella (Lyon 1596 - Paris 1657), artist