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This very interesting and very high-quality painting of Herods Feast, with Salome performing her dance, has been obscured by the grandiose memorial tablet (in fairness to those who placed it here, the existence of the paintings was almost certainly not suspected at the time). The church was virtually rebuilt about 1470, and most of the paintings now visible were found in 1970, although there are traces of earlier ones, including fragments of an earlier Herods Feast/Salome.
The photograph below left shows most of the lefthand side of the subject. The pairs of feet, one with exaggeratedly pointed shoes, are all that is left of figures standing in the topmost tier. Below, just to the right of the memorial tablet, is the executioners arm, raised with its great sword to decapitate John the Baptist. The female figure at the right might be Herodias, wife of Herod (or more likely, an attendant on her), but apart from some patches of red pigment which probably represented Johns robe, the rest of the saints figure has gone.
To the right, and shown here below right, is the
incident which resulted in Johns execution. The figure second from the left and wearing a crown, is Herodias. She is flanked by two figures, both apparently female and presumably guests at the party Herod gave for his lords, high captains and chief estates of Galilee [Mark 6:21]. Part of another figure is visible at the far right but it is impossible to say whether this is Herod himself or not.
Below the figures, the table is spread. There are three round platters, the one at the left very indistinct. The central platter has the faint outline of a fish, and the one at the right has something on it which might be a boars head or similar medieval delicacy. Below, Salome dances in athletic medieval tumbler style, her body bent backwards with head (mostly gone) near the floor and her large hands braced, supporting her. To the left of her, at the edge of the painting, is what looks like a female figure in red with a headdress. She seems to be holding a circular object, and I think this is an attendant with John the Baptists head on the platter or charger. This telescoping of the dance and its outcome is found elsewhere in scenes of Herods Feast - Pickering is another example.
This is not, of course, the kind of dancing to be indulged in by a princess; it was the preserve of the professional dancer, who would in all probability have performed naked. Such people were regarded in much the same light as prostitutes, rogues and vagabonds generally in the Middle Ages, and Salomes action would have seemed very scandalous. But Pickering in North Yorkshire and Chalfont St. Giles in Buckinghamshire also have Salome dancing in this way.
I will try to include the earlier, 14th century version of Salomes dance here at a future update, although it is very fragmentary. But there are several other paintings at Heydon - The Three Living & The Three Dead, and the Adoration of the Magi are now on the site.
|St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire||St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire||St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk||St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent||St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs||St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW||St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk|
|St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants||St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks||St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk||St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW||St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW||St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon.||Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW||St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs|
|St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk||St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent||St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk||St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk|
|St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon||St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks||St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants||St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks||St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs||St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs||St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks||St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk|
|St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants||St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk||St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks||St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk||St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk||St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon||St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire||St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks|
|St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW||St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks||St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk||Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire||St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex||St. James the Great, Yelden (or Yielden), Beds NEW||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk|
|St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks||Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset||St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent||St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk||St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants||St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire|
|St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey||Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex||Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire||Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW||St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds||St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset||St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire|
|St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks||St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk||St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire||St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the barrel, Bishopsbourne, Kent NEW||St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon||St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon||St. Paul : Selling, Kent||St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon|
|St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon||St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants||St. Peter : Selling, Kent||SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW||St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs||St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs||S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon||St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon|
|St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk||St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants||Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire||St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs.||Archbishop, possibly Thomas Becket, blessing, Shorthampton, Oxfordshire NEW||St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset||St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire||St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk|
|St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire||St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk||St. Zita : Horley, Oxon||St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon||Unidentified female saint : Heydon|
© Anne Marshall 2001