Salome’s dance (top) at the birthday feast of her step-father, Herod Antipas, seated at the center of the banquet table, so pleases the ruler of Galilee and Perea that he promises to give her whatever she wishes. Prompted by her mother, Herodias, in white at left, Salome requests “the head of John the Baptist on a platter” (Matthew 14:8). In this late-15th-century fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio for Santa Maria Novella, in Florence, a servant presents the head to Antipas, who had arrested John in Galilee for his condemnation of Antipas’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. (Although the Bible does not name Salome, the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded her identity.)
In the bottom register, John baptizes Jesus (left) and preaches in the wilderness (right). By wearing a hairy cloak (Matthew 3:4//Mark 1:6) like the prophet Elijah’s (2 Kings 1:8) and by preaching in the desolate region of Perea, east of the Jordan, where Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, John likened himself to the Old Testament prophet, announcing the coming of the day of judgment.