The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

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A wood block print reproducing an original woodcut by Albrecht Altdorfer for The Pageant’s second issue. It is featured on page 255 in Charles ricketts’ essay A Note on Original Wood Engraving. Altdorfer was a Northern Renaissance Bavarian artist, influenced by Italian old masters and his contemporary Albrecht Durer. The piece depicts the beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a martyr, and the handing over of his head to Salome, a biblical figure often used as a symbol of lust and the danger of female seduction, also the central figure of Oscar Wilde’s eponymous play! The woodcut has a very interesting use of perspective and composition, with the main scene taking up only a third of the whole piece. The depiction of the people included has a very graphic quality. Altdorfer has paid possibly even more attention to the representation of the surrounding architecture as to that of the people. The artist utilizes a couple different kinds of lines and strokes with different thicknesses as well as techniques like hatching and crosshatching. The piece also has a very complicated composition, with the gazes of the lookers on guiding the viewer to a spot just above the the decapitated head being handed over.

References:

Albrecht Altdorfer: German Landscape Painter, Danube School. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/old-masters/albrecht-altdorfer.htm. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

“Albrecht Altdorfer | The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/336258. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

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