John the Baptist denounced King Herod for his unlawful marriage to Herodias, his brother's widow, and was thrown into prison. During a feast at the palace, Herod's step-daughter Salome, danced so beautifully that Herod offered her any gift she asked. Her mother told her to demand the head of John. Rather than break his word, Herod ordered the execution and his head was presented to Salome on a dish. Here the executioner offers the head to Salome who averts her gaze while, in the distance, the feast continues. For Christians, John is seen as the last prophet of the Old Testament and the forerunner of Christ. Images of his severed head were once though to have the ability to cure sickness. It was a popular subject in Renaissance art, allowing painters to exploit the contrast between murderous violence and female beauty in the figure of Salome.