This week I have been exploring Christian art related to the dance of the daughter of Herodias (Salome in some traditions) and the beheading of John the Baptist.
In many paintings I found the dancing and beheading scenes were mingled into one. In some cases, in so graphic and erotic a way that there seems little doubt that the artists were seriously toying with necrophilia motifs. I have spared you the worst.
The story is obviously charged with an atmosphere of political corruption, but I think that’s taking artistic licence a wee bit too far don’t you? Even the nakedness (seen left for example) is completely speculative as all the Bible says is, “When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.”
The key theme of the story, the foolishness of Herod and the faithfulness of John, tends to get lost in the titillation.
2 thoughts on “Sex, Death and a Baptist Dancer”
I don’t know. I’d always found the story stretched the imagination – he liked the dancing and offered her half the kingdom. Seriously? Until I saw one of these paintings during the time I was studying belly dancing, and became friends for a time with a professional belly dancer. D’oh! It all made sense. She didn’t just do a dance – she used the full gamut of belly dancing skills to gain favour with the man in charge. That was the cultural norm if you were trained in the art. And what an art it is. If you’ve ever attended a whole evening of belly dancing by professional dancers, even a women’s only event, you can’t tell me your temperature wasn’t raised a little bit. So after that the story made sense – he was drunk, she was a comely lass dancing – for quite some time – for full marks, and he was overcome with lust. Thinking with some other part of his body other than his brain, he made the wild irresponsible offer. Without the influence of her mother, she would have chosen jewellery, clothing, an apartment, a better place in the court hierarchy, whatever. But it all went horribly wrong for Herod and John; the astute Herod had been too much a slave to his flesh to stay one step ahead politically like he had always done.
Sue, yes, that's more in line with what I would imagine. I have another painting coming up which is more in line with this.