The saint known in the West as “John the Baptist” is called “the forerunner” in the Orthodox Church because he baptized Christ and prepared his way, as mentioned in Luke 1, 76. In Matthew 3, 2, it is described that he wore a dress of camel’s hair; we usually find him with bare feet and a somewhat shaggy beard. Because he admonished Herod and Herodias: “You are not permitted to have your brother Philip’s wife.” (Mat. 14; Luke 3, 18), he has him imprisoned. So we see him in the upper part of the icon in prison.
In the middle of the picture the executioner strikes the last blow, the body sinks to the ground and the head is handed over by the executioner to Salome in the right part of the icon. So three scenes of beheading are combined in one picture. In the background an architectural backdrop with a reverse perspective. John is considered the patron saint of monastic life. In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, his martyrdom is described as follows: “… And he (Herod) would have liked to kill him, but was afraid of the people, because they thought he was a prophet…And he sent and beheaded John in prison. And his head was carried in a bowl and given to the girl”.
In the present, usual iconographic form, the dramatic-tragic event finds a peaceful resolution. In the east and west, the head of John is often shown alone on a bowl.