Scenes from the Life of St. John the Baptist
Oil on panel, with sgrafitto gilding
23 5/8 x 16 1/8 in.
(60 x 40.9 cm)
Signed across the ledge at bottom:
GIROLAMO COMA PINGEBAT 1563
Sale, Christie’s, London, March 28, 1924, lot 68, as Girolomo Comi: Scenes from the Life of John the Baptist, and signed and dated 1658 [sic]
Sale, Albert Kende, Vienna, October 24-26, 1935, lot 98, as Girolamo Comi: Salome, and signed and dated :Girolamo Coma pingebat 1563.”
Private Collection, Massachusetts; their Estate Sale, Kaminski Auctions, Beverly, Mass., Oct. 11, 2015, lot 5230.
This unusual painting –unusual in both technique and subject—is a rare example of the work of the Modenese painter Girolamo Comi. Few works are known by the artist, and each of these involves narratives in fantastic architectural settings, executed in a technique involving a gilded paint surface over which a composition in oils is painted, but with reserved areas for the gilt decoration and extensive sgrafitto work to reveal gilt decoration throughout.
The subject is unusual as well as the narrative elements proceed chronologically from the rear of the composition forward. The oldest scene depicted is the Preaching of St. John the Baptist, seen addressing the multitude through the colonnade and arch at the center of the composition. In the middle of the architectural space, beneath an octagonal oculus, the Execution of St. John the Baptist is portrayed, with Salome cooly observing at the right. And in the final scene, staged in the foreground, the Head of the Baptist is presented by Salome to King Herod and his wife Herodias, who are seated at a banquet table.
 Among these are a Madonna and Child with Saints in the York City Art Gallery, a Preaching of St. Paul in the Museo Civico, Modena, and two compositions known through old photographs (see below).