Head of St. John the Baptist
Seventeenth century, oil on canvas
The canvas doubtless refers to the Neapolitan seventeenth-century school, and displays connections with Massimo Stanzione’s other works (1586-1656). This is revealed by similar details in other works produced by the artist (such as the decapitated head in “Judith with Holoferne’s Head” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). The bruised head,
its mouth slightly open, rests on a silvery tray illuminated by swathes of light, onto which the blood drips out of the severed neck. The black background renders the subject even more disturbing. In front of the head rests the broken cross (underscoring the terrible end which the Saint met with). On it is a sign with the inscription “Ecce Agnus Dei”. Massimo Stanzione was an Italian painter who mainly worked in Naples during the baroque period. Nicknamed “the Guido Reni of Naples”, he was one of the most important artists from the Neapolitan school.