Lipi was a painter with special attitude. His brothers and him were raised in the Carmelites order. Besides learning about Christianity, the brothers learned how to paint in there. Lippi was a comic and liked drawing extraordinary subjects, anecdotal and full of life. For instance, he has painted the story of Salome and John the Baptist. Another example will be of Saint Stephen.
In the time of Kind Herod, when Jesus and John were working for a just and faithful society; Herod tempted the queen’s daughter. And to whom the bell rung? The Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) who rebuked and protested.
King Herod was adventurous. He was crowned despite being a descendant of a non-Jewish tribe (the Edomites). As for his special genealogy, Herod suspected all his surrounding and his hand was viciously easy pulling the executing trigger.
King Herod had sexual relations with Herodias, whom was known to be very “liberal”. Near the end of his life, he fell for her daughter Salome; whom was not his daughter (biologically). Herod wanted to lay her down and offered her anything she would have wished.
He promised her a gorgeous palace;
He offered her gold and fortune;
it didn’t help him either.
Well, the king had a farm of white peacocks. He offered her the farm;
and she said ‘no’.
She was willing to have only one thing – the head of John the Baptist. (For this one we lack an illustrating picture 😉 )
A “lovely” girl.
John the Baptist was constantly slandering Herodia, Salome’s mother. He accused her for living promiscuous sexual life and similar slanders. Nonetheless, Herod appreciated John greatly.
It didn’t help John. Salome’s temptation was too much, and Herod agreed to her offer. The Jewish people did not view with favour this love affair. The result – John lost his head, literally. Herod is viewed in history as the one who chased Christianity and chopped the head of John the Baptist.
Imagine a scene where the daughter of the lord’s wife is coming to the prison, asking to execute John. As from former pictures, we know John was handsome, but he was misogynist homosexual. Here comes a woman telling him – “If you agree to have sex with me, I’ll let you free from Jail”. John answered with anger, willing to get into his cell. In the meanwhile, Salome is invited to the King’s banquet where the king is offering her the “deal”.
Filippo Lippi painted the negotiation Herod had with Salome when she agreed to cooperate in front of all the people. Salome is dressed with 7 dresses; singing and dancing while removing a dress after dress, as at the same time the King’s friends see how beautiful she is.
In the end she is getting a room with Herod, off course. While they’re having sex the head of John is falling.
Off course Herodias does not view this offer with favour. If you look at the right corner, you’ll see two women almost preying each other. Herodias asks her daughter “do not agree unless he kills John”.
This is the legend, hope you liked it.
It was not a common custom to integrate the legend in paintings, but this is not where Lippi’s renovation ends. Lippi combined a comic dimension, and got famous by that.
In a different story called “the death of Saint Stephen”, Lippi mocks the Christian death ritual. In Christianity there’s a custom to have the deceased on the table for three days uncovered. People are coming to visit, washing him and taking care of him.
The priest gives him the approval to ascend. The surroundings are putting a few coins under his head and rub him in skin cream. Today the skin cream is like a medicine, but back then it was a fragrant cream that freed the body to ascend, so it was only the priest who was permitted to use it.
The cream had a symbolic/spiritual meaning – it freed the body to ascend. As a proof/evidence that he got the priest approval to ascend.
Throughout these three days the people were surrounding the deceased and mourned. There was also a candle, which represented the soul that continued to the otherworld.
Lippi “documented” us what the surroundings were actually doing 🙂 Some are making money out of it, some lay their hands on others, some are fulling around and some are having entertaining time. Well, you may agree with me that it was a bravery to describe that way the death of Saint Stephen.
A funny and quiet not understood picture.