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Herod’s Feast, with Salome: Heydon, Norfolk. c1470 (‡Norwich)


This very interesting and very high-quality painting of Herod’s 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 Herod’s Feast/Salome.

The photograph below left shows most of the lefthand side of the subject. The pairs of feet, one with exaggeratedly Herod's Feast, execution of John the Baptist, Heydon [111KB]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 executioner’s 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 John’s robe, the rest of the saint’s figure has gone.

To the right, and shown here below right, is the incident which resulted in John’s 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 boar’s 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 Baptist’s head on the platter or charger. This ‘telescoping’ of the dance and its outcome is found elsewhere in scenes of Herod’s Feast - Pickering is another example.Herod's Feast, with Salome dancing, Heydon [90KB]

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 Salome’s 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 Salome’s 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

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Anne Marshall 2001