Head of John the Baptist, anonymous, c. 1500
At the request of his stepdaughter Salome, Herod ordered the beheading of John the Baptist. She was given his head on a platter. This macabre theme – often called Johannes in disco (John on a plate) – is represented here. The platter, however, is missing. The deathly pale alabaster, the open mouth and tongue and the deep-set eye sockets reinforce the harsh realism.