A painting by Peter Paul Rubens that was believed to have been lost or misattributed for about 200 years is expected to rank among the highest-value old master works ever sold when it is auctioned next year. Salome Presented With the Head of John the Baptist was rediscovered in 1998 and will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in January. It is dated from about 1609, when the artist returned to his native Flanders from his sojourn to Italy.

The artwork depicts the cautionary tale of Salome, popular in the early 17th century for its message to be wary of cunning and powerful women, and “fearlessly explores the violent and sexual dynamics of the Biblical narrative like some pre-cinematic Martin Scorsese”, according to Keith Christiansen, the curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “It’s the kind of painting that, once seen, you won’t forget.”



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