Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod

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John William Waterhouse

1849-1917

English , Victorian Romanticist painter and draftsman

Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod

1887

259 x 180 cms | 101 3/4 x 70 3/4 ins
Oil on canvas

Forbes Magazine Collection

New York | United States

This image is one of Waterhouse's most dramatic paintings. Mariamne was considered to be the favorite of King Herod's ten wives. He supposedly loved her quite dearly, but let false rumours of gross unfaithfulness brought to him by her sister, Salome, hold sway with him. Herod put Mariamne on trial for the crime, and with great despair sentenced her to be executed. (Xenohistorian, Publicbookshelf,) Mariamne is depicted arms bound and fists clenched staring at her husband, Herod, with a look of hurt disbelief. King Herod, unable to bring himself to look at her drops his head to avoid her gaze. Behind her in a semi-circle sits some of the elders, powerful people in Herod's kingdom. Her dress is white symbolizing her purity and innocence of the crime. Peter Trippi, world expert on Waterhouse, in his catalogue rèsumè quoted playwright George Bernard Shaw as noting that Mariamne's descending the stair brings her forward and makes her prominent in the painting, but the stairs turn and lead down under a dark archway, symbolizing her fate. Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod was apart of the famous Forbes collection for over 30 years. It was sold in London over the spring of 2003.
-- Kara Ross