In my Thanksgiving post I mentioned that a search for feast paintings turned up some fairly non-Thanksgiving-appropriate results. Well, maybe appropriate for some families, but I don’t think I want to know. I thought this week I would cover one of those.
We have a Peter Paul Rubens painting that is not related to Marie de Medici. Instead of a megalomaniac queen and her polyamorous husband, this time we have a good, wholesome Bible story: The Feast of Herod.
The story goes that Herod divorced his wife and married Herodias (because matching names are totes adorable!), the wife of his brother. John the Baptist pointed out that this was perhaps not the most moral course of marital action, which made Herodias go a bit murderous wench-y, because women are evil and emotionally unstable. On Herod’s birthday Herodias’ daughter Salome dances for his party guests, and her moves are so sexay that Herod promises her whatever she wants as a reward for her bootyliciousness. Instead of asking for a new chariot or Spring Break in Rome, she follows her mother’s wishes and asks for John’s head on a platter.
And here it is! They bring it out right in the middle of the party, because nothing gets the good times rolling like a still-bleeding decapitated head.
First off, what is this child doing here? All the adults are hushed in awe that a human head is being given as a gift by the birthday boy, and this kid is like, “You know what would be mischievous? Playing under the table with my puppy!”
Then we have the presentation. I assume the lady with a stick in the head’s mouth is Herodias, so her delightful revenge explains her calm smile, but what about the woman behind her that looks even happier? She gazes on Salome with an expression that says, “Oh, I am so proud of you for fulfilling your mother’s slaughterhouse dreams.” Is this just commentary about how all women are horrible? Also, what is going on with the mouth stick? The expression says not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I suppose it doesn’t mention gift decapitated man-heads. And Herod’s expression seems to be, “Oh dear, I shouldn’t have let her ask for this after dinner…how quickly can I get to the vomitorium?”
Finally, there is this guy.
He gazes at the grey, decaying head, and seems to think, “Mmm…looks so delicious.”