A Proper Anguish





The Young Saint John the Baptist, no date given, tempera and oil on wood, and detail.  Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522, Florence.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. 

The saint is one of the patron saints of Florence.




Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist, 1507-09, oil on wood, and detail.  Andrea Solario, 1465-1524, Milan.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY




Herodias, before 1635, oil on canvas.  Francesco Cairo, 1607-1665, Milan, Italy.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

The museum notes that the bottom half of this painting with the decapitated head was cut off out of concern for the propriety of showing such a grisly decapitation. 





Detail of Herodias, before 1635, oil on canvas.  Francesco Cairo, 1607-1665, Milan, Italy.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.



Herodias, the mother of Salome, had encouraged her to this decapitation. 

The saint was no lover of this family. St. John had condemned her marriage to two half-brothers, sons of Herod the Great by two different wives. The family was afraid of the saint’s prophetic powers and of the revolutionary activity of the saint’s followers.


Herodias could be said to be fainting at the horror of the act.

But she could also be swooning with orgiastic pleasure at this accomplishment effected by her own daughter: the removal of a family enemy.


Whatever the cause of her anguish, it is rare enough in our public (political) lives – except at funerals and disasters – for me to mention the only occasion I recall seeing it in my life.  



Nicholas Hulot (French, born 1955) with his wife during the handing over of power of his ministry after his resignation


Nicholas Hulot, the former French Minister for the Environment (Ministere de la Transition  (Ministère de la transition écologique et solidaire), a long term political activist, quit his post in anguish in an interview on a French morning tv interview program on August 28, 2018.

He quit because, in France as in most of the rest of the world, ecological concerns count for little in governmental decision-making while it is clear that our ecological conditions continue to degrade.

France has an exceptional civilization now punching under its weight in world affairs because of the bubble-isolation of its language in a world of English. 

That this event occurred at all is yet another marker of her exceptionalism.















6 thoughts on “A Proper Anguish

  1. “ecological concerns count for little in governmental decision-making while it is clear that our ecological conditions continue to degrade.” – Unfortunately, that’s the way it is…
    Kind regards, Franz

    1. It is an absolute catastrophe, Franz. Our species is going to pass away because of this…………Be well. Sarah

      1. Yes. There has been a green party in every country for a long time. But even those unfortunately do not make sustainable environmental policies…

      2. The block is in the way our capitalism works. You have to meet and exceed results in every quarter in the US (and everywhere else) in order to sustain your stock price. Under these conditions, environmental policies and all social policies are pushed to the back.

        I am Ethiopian by blood even if I am a Westerner by schooling. It has come to me that the solutions will be coming out of Africa and other areas of the world whose environments remain to a great extent pristine and whose economies do not operate according to neo-liberal capitalism rules.

        Something has to give, Franz. Because our species – let alone others – are beginning to die. You should see the catastrophe ongoing in the Carolinas (US). (Poor) people are dying. Sarah

  2. La démission de Nicolas Hulot a porté un rude coup à la crédibilité du gouvernement français en matière écologique, c’était le ministre le plus populaire du gouvernement.
    En général les gens sont d’accord avec les écologistes, sauf quand il s’agit de faire des sacrifices sur leur niveau de vie.

    1. Je comprends ce que vous dites, Louis. Je ris parce que c’est vrai et partout (les sacrifices……..)

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