St John the Baptist2019-07-12T09:40:28+00:00

Project Description

SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST – Caravaggio 1610

The San Giovanni Battista is a subject that we often find in Caravaggio. Among the most famous versions I remind you that of the Capitoline Museums, that of the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City and that of the Corsini Gallery in Rome. The Saint is the one who baptized Jesus of Nazareth and his life was completely dedicated to preaching. Here San Giovanni Battista is younger than the other paintings made by Caravaggio and could seem like any shepherd who has stopped to rest. In fact we see him lying on a large red drape which is his cloak, a symbol of martyrdom. The young man’s left foot rests on a cut trunk, while the respective arm is placed on the red cloth that covers an improvised seat, perhaps on rocks. The right hand is clinging to the other arm, helping Giovanni to support the long rod he holds with his left hand.
It is almost completely naked, except for the white cloth that hides the groin by covering the left side and coming down on the right thigh. The thoughtful gaze is turned towards us, while on his right a ram is busy grazing the shoots of the vine that climbs the rocks of the background. Of the environment in which the scene is immersed we can hardly see, perhaps the artist has only sketched it, the light breaks in from the left side of the picture, illuminating Giovanni’s body. A curiosity: in the painting, on the edge of the lower edge, the artist has inserted two plants of badger beard, which often recur in the work of Caravaggio in subjects of sacred art and which symbolize death. The image of the ram is unusual and replaces the lamb that we are used to seeing more often in the depiction of the Baptist.
The painting was one of the last painted by Caravaggio and together with a Maddalena and another San Giovanni, it was part of the baggage that the artist brought back to Rome after traveling between Naples and Malta. The painter wanted to donate it to Scipione Borghese, his great admirer, in exchange for the help to obtain the papal grace: the artist in fact had escaped from Rome with a capital sentence against him for having killed a young man in still mysterious circumstances. . Of this work I invite you to grasp the exceptional compositional invention that appears and captures us in all its languid sensuality.

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