I am proud to be able to offer this highly stylized and orientalist take on the beheading of John the Baptist, as depicted by C. Bosseron Chambers, the famed illustrator of epic and Christian scenes who was dubbed the religious Rockwell. Chambers’ “Light of the World” image was as famous and popular a print as Maxfield Parrish’s “Daybreak.” This dramatic scene, framed in wonderful period ornate arts & crafts frame with velvet matting, is an engaging and exceptional example of Chambers’ gift of rendering religious scenes in a provocative and modern style.
The story of the beheading of John the Baptist was key the late 19th and early 20th century; in 1894, Oscar Wilde re-envisioned the story from the perspective of Salome, Herod’s daughter who demanded the head of John the Baptist in exchange for dancing her erotic dance of the seven veils, and traditional and modernized illustrations of the climactic scenes became popular.
A biography of Charles Bosseron Chambers
C. Bosseron Chambers was known for figurative works in an illustrative manner, with many of them being either portraits or works with religious themes.
An illustrator and teacher as well as painter, Chambers was born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 1882. His father, a young Irish captain in the British Army, was a convert to the Catholic Church, and his mother was the daughter of a French family long established in St. Louis.
Charles, the youngest of several children, was sent to the Preparatory and Grammar Schools connected with St. Louis University in his earliest years, and his education in his chosen art was begun under Louis Schultz of the Berlin Royal Academy, with whom he spent six years. His next master was Aleis Hrdliczka of the Royal Academy of Vienna, and he later studied with Johannes Schumacher of Dresden for six years.
After matriculating at St. Louis University, Chambers began his professional career at Palm Beach, Florida, a place chosen because of his mother’s failing health.
From this period in his artistic productions date the fantastic figure compositions exhibited at the St. Louis Exposition, together with portraits of Colonel Mitchell for the Missouri Historical Society; Joseph Jefferson, the great American actor; young Master Haven; Henry Phipps; Henry M. Flagler; Mrs. Voorhis and others.
In 1916 he moved to New York City, and established himself in the Carnegie Studios, Carnegie Hall, where he occupied a splendid atelier. Here he produced the “Light of the World,” the most popular religious painting of the early 1900s in the USA.
He was a member of the Society of Illustrators, established in 1901 in New York City, and the Salmagundi Club, an early important art club in New York City. He illustrated Sir Walter Scott’s, “Quentin Durward, “in the Scribner Classics for Young People.
His work was exhibited at the well-known John Levy Galleries in New York City in the 1930s, and his work is now in several public collections in St. Louis and Chicago, including Chicago’s St. Ignatius’s Church, Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis, and the Osceola Club in St. Augustine, Florida.
About John the Baptist
In Christianity John is known as “the Baptist” from his practice of preaching and baptizing Jews in the River Jordan. Most notably he is the one who recognized Jesus as the messiah and, on Jesus’ request, baptised him. The baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ life as a teacher.
According to the Canonical Gospels, John the Baptist’s public ministry was suddenly brought to a close, probably about six months after he had baptized Jesus. According to these Gospel narratives, Herod Antipas jailed him, with the Gospel of Luke arguing that Herod was punishing John for condemning Herod’s marriage to Herodias, the former wife of Herod Philip, Herod’s own brother. Some academics have argued that John was imprisoned in the Machaerus fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, nine miles east of the Dead Sea.
The narrative states that although Herod himself respected John’s authority and the clout of his following, to the extent that he would do John no further harm, Herod’s bloodthirsty wife had other ideas, and persuaded her daughter, Salome, to trick Herod. At a party for Herod, Salome dances so beautifully that, according to the Canonical Gospels, Herod foolishly offers her anything she requests, so she asks for John’s head on a silver platter, and so John is beheaded.