Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has a Bible. In fact, he has a number of Bibles around the Villainschloss. The Bible in question is a large “Family” style Bible. It probably weighs 15 lbs. It is bound in leather and gilt. It was purchased by his maternal Grandmother from a sale of such Bibles held at the family parish (St. Michaels for those of you who care) after Vatican II wrapped up.

This Bible was always the source of wonder and amazement for your Maximum Leader when he was a young villain. Alas, he didn’t read it quite as much as he should have (although he did read quite a bit). He was fascinated by the reproductions of great art throughout the Bible. Every great story had some work of classical art to illustrate it. Sometimes the artist chosen to represent a particular story wasn’t what your Maximum Leader would have liked. But often the art was some Renaissance master work.

One particular image always captivated your Maximum Leader. It was the image of Salome and the head of John the Baptist by Caracciolo. (Here is a link to the work.) It captivated him in a number of ways. First off, the subject matter itself if pretty gripping. Captain of the Guard presenting a human head on a silver platter to a beautiful woman is not your daily fare of imagery. This painting’s most gripping element is Salome herself. How she looks at the viewer. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see lots of emotions in the face of Salome that he finds in other renderings of the image. In this painting he sees knowingness in the face of Salome. She looks at you and her expression and eyes call out and say “See what I’ve done? Do you know my power?” Her mother’s face is smiling, she is pleased (of course) to see the grisly trophy. (Afterall, it was Herodias who convinced Salome to ask for the head of John the Baptist.) In Caracciolo’s painting, Salome is collected and completely nonplussed. In a way that makes her quite terrifying.

Quite terrifying indeed.

Carry on.


Among the cartoons I have on my office bulletin board is one from the New Yorker from years ago. It is captioned: “Don’t Invite To The Same Party - Salome (with the head of John the Baptist) and Judith (with the head of Holfernes).”

The body is a drawing of a Manhattan cocktail party with the two women in the foreground, severed heads on trays in their hands, glaring at each other. Salome is decked out in Saucy Trollop garb, while Judith is in a more modest dress.

I still smile when I glance up at it, but I’ve an idea that it goes rocketing past most of the visitors to my little cubicle.

I would be willing to bet that your coworkers don’t get it. Is this the cartoon in your office? It is pretty funny.

Caravaggio’s Judith was always my favorite Italian renaissance beheading depicter. You can see his painting (which was for some time my desktop background image until I found a black sheep the movie (the new one, not the Chris Farley one) wallpaper) here

Father M. said:

I was assigned to St. Michael’s in Annandale from 1996-2000. Was any of your family still there?

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