Mattia Preti, Italian, 1613-1699
Title: The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
Date: c.1640
Medium: Oil on canvas
135 x 97 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1864
Object Number: NGI.366
DescriptionAlthough acquired as a work by Caravaggio, this biblical scene was attributed to Mattia Preti in 1971. Preti enjoyed his first artistic success in Rome, but spent his mature career in Naples before settling down in Malta during the last decade of his life. His dramatic style combines Caravaggio’s realism and light-and-dark contrast with the theatricality of Venetian painting. Saint John the Baptist has kneeled down about to be killed by his executioner. Preti intensified the sense of horror of this scene by depicting the anticipation of the Baptist’s beheading rather than the more familiar presentation of his head on a plate.