Mariamne is an oil on canvas painting by the English artist John William WaterhouseJohn William Waterhouse was an English artist known primarily for his depictions of women set in scenes from myth, legend or poetry. He is the best known of that group of artists who from the 1880s revived the literary themes favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites. . Painted in 1887, the same year it was exhibited at the Royal Academy, it is the largest artwork he produced. The painting’s full title is Mariamne leaving the judgement seat of Herod. It is the finale in his sequence of works with historical themes, which began with The Remorse of Nero in 1878.
Together with other relatives, Salome, Herod the Great’s sister, had deceitfully accused Mariamne, the King’s second wife, of adultery in 24 BCE. Waterhouse portrays the scene in which Herod condemned Mariamne to death despite his devotion to her, and she looks back at him as she walks in chains towards her execution. In the background shadows behind her the elderly judges responsible for finding her guilty are seated in a circle while to the right Salome stands beside the distraught Herod malevolently whispering to him. Adding to the menacing effect of the scene is the marble lion baring his teeth.
The painting was owned by Sir Cuthbert Quilter until he sold it on 9 July 1909 for 480 guineas. While it was in his possession Quilter sent it to be shown at international exhibitions. In 1889 it won a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle before being exhibited throughout Britain in venues such as Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool and Nottingham as well as several in London and its surrounds. After being displayed in Chicago in 1893 at the World’s Columbian exhibition, the painting was sent to Brussels for the Exposition Internationale held there in 1897, where it was awarded one of the five gold medals. When the artwork was offered at auction on 15 July 1938 the highest bid was 48 guineas.