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Head of Saint John the Baptist

Artist: Sculptor of Rimini
workshop of
(active between 1420 and 1430)

Date: 1420–1430
Medium: alabaster
Dimensions: 15.3 × 7.8 × 6.8 cm, 1 kg
Classification: sculpture
Inventory Number: 84.16
Department: Sculpture

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Head of Saint John the Baptist

This relief, depicting the decapitated head of St John the Baptist, is masterfully carved from soft and shiny alabaster. Referring to the saint’s martyrdom, the head was originally perhaps affixed to a wooden tray, this is now lost. The cult of the Baptist spread quickly in Western Europe after the sack of Costantinople (1204) and the deposition of his relics in the Cathedral of Amiens. Such St John trays were common devotional objects of the later Middle Ages. This carving, as well as a series of similar works in various European museums (Munich, London, Mainz, Brussels), comes from the workshop of the so-called “Rimini-master“. This great alabaster workshop has not yet been localised, its leader has been named after his chief work originating from Rimini and preserved at the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt.