Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist

Bernardino Luini (Italian (Milanese), active in 1512, died in 1532)


62.23 x 51.43 cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on panel

On View

Italian Renaissance Gallery (Gallery 219.4)





The Bible recounts how King Herod, captivated by the dancing of his stepdaughter, Salome, offered her any reward. At her mother’s urging, Salome requested the head of John the Baptist, who had criticized her mother’s marriage. During the Renaissance, John’s head on a platter was widely understood to be a symbol for the Host, or sacramental bread in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist. Luini executed several paintings of Salome with the head of the Baptist where the beautiful faces belie the brutal violence of decapitation. The technique of contours blurred by delicate shadows and the specific facial types reveal the strong influence of Leonardo da Vinci.


By 1845, Paolo Marulli d'Ascoli (b. 1766 - d. 1846), Naples [see note 1]; by descent to Sebastiano Troiano Marulli d'Ascoli (b. 1867 - d. 1917), Duke of Ascoli and Prince of Sant'Angelo dei Lombardi, Naples [see note 2]. With Elia Volpi (b. 1858 - d. 1938), Florence [see note 3]. 1921, Duveen Brothers, New York; 1921, sold by Duveen to Mrs. Walter Scott Fitz (Henrietta Goddard Wigglesworth) (b. 1847 - d. 1927), Boston; gift of Mrs. Walter Scott Fitz to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 20, 1921)

[1] See Napoli e i Luoghi Celebri delle sue Vicinanze, vol. 2 (Naples, 1845), where a Salome attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is recorded in the collection of Paolo Marulli, whose brother was the great- great-grandfather of Sebastiano Marulli. Other works of art recorded in Paolo Marulli's collection in 1845 passed to the heirs of his nephew.

[2] Luca Beltrami, "Luini, 1512-1532" (Milan, 1911), p. 566, records this painting as being in the Duke of Ascoli collection. The Gazzetta Ufficiale del Regno d'Italia (December 21, 1903), p. 5682, lists a Salome with the head of St. John by Luini in the collection of Sebastiano Marulli, Duke of Ascoli.

[3] Marilena Tamassia, "Collezioni d'arte tra Ottocento e Novecento: Jacquier fotografi a Firenze 1870-1935" (Naples, 1995), p. 224, no. 51517.

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. W. Scott Fitz