The Feast of Herod (recto) Tomyris with the Head of Cyrus (verso)

The Feast of Herod (recto) Tomyris with the Head of Cyrus (verso)

c. 1637-1638

Part of a set. See all set records

Peter Paul Rubens

(Flemish, 1577-1640)

Pen and brown ink, with black and red chalk, touched with white gouache

Sheet: 27.2 x 47.2 cm (10 11/16 x 18 9/16 in.); Secondary Support: 27.6 x 47.3 cm (10 7/8 x 18 5/8 in.)

Delia E. Holden and L. E. Holden Funds 1954.2



During the 17th century, drawings were indispensible in large studios. In addition to being preparatory for paintings, they were used by studio assistants to aid the master and were copied by pupils. Extremely cautious, Rubens guarded his drawings like studio secrets from competitors who could exploit them for their own compositions. Striking in its immediacy, this drawing is a preparatory study for a painting now at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Herod, wearing a large cap and wrapped in a mantle, shrinks back horror-struck as Salome uncovers a charger that holds the head of Saint John the Baptist. In the most chilling detail, Herodias, seated at the far side of the table, gestures toward the charger with a fork in her right hand.

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