About This Artwork

Giovanni di Paolo
Italian, 1398–1482

Saint John the Baptist Entering the Wilderness, 1455/60

Tempera on panel
68.5 x 36.2 cm (27 x 14 1/4 in.); painted surface: 66.3 x 34 cm (26 1/16 x 13 7/16 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1010

Giovanni di Paolo worked within the conservative artistic tradition of Siena, creating rich patterns and an intensely devotional mood in his paintings. Among his finest narrative works are these six panels, part of a series of twelve depicting the life of Saint John the Baptist, the kinsman and prophet of Christ. Other panels from the series are scattered in European and American collections; they may originally have formed the doors of a shrine housing a relic of the saint. In the first of the Art Institute's panels, the young Baptist enters the wilderness to live as a hermit; later he foretells Christ's role as redeemer, is imprisoned, and is finally martyred at the request of Salome, the step-daughter of King Herod.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, F. Kleinberger Galleries, Italian Primitives, 1917, no. 54.

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Loan Exhibition of the Arts of the Italian Renaissance, May 7–September 9, 1923, no. 12.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of Italian Art, 1200-1900, January–March, 1930, no. 927.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, June 1–November 1, 1933, no. 85a.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, June 1–November 1, 1934, no. 29a.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition, June 26–October 4, 1936, no. 137.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Children’s Museum, Explanatory Exhibition of the Panels Showing Scenes from the Life of St. John the Baptist by Giovanni di Paolo, 1939 (no cat.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago’s Dream A World’s Treasure: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1893-1993, 1993, no cat.

Publication History

F. Mason Perkins, “Dipinti sconosciuti della scuola senese,” Rassegna d’arte senese 3, 1 (1907), pp. 82–83, ill.

E. Jacobsen, Das Quattrocento in Siena: Studien in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie (Strasbourg, 1908), p. 50.

Bernard Berenson, The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance, 2d ed. (New York and London, 1909), p. 177.

Paul Schubring, “Opere Sconosciute di Giovanni di Paolo e del Vecchietta,” Rassegna d’arte 12, 10 (1912), pp. 163–64.

J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy, 2d ed., vol. 5, ed. T. Borenius (New York, 1914), p. 178 n.

F. Mason Perkins, “Dipinti senesi sconosciuti o inediti,” Rassegna d’arte 14 (1914), p. 163 n. 2.

Paul Schubring, Cassoni: Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Frührenaissance (Leipzig, 1915), vol. 1, pp. 324–25, nos. 445–50; vol. 3, pl. CIV.

Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, and Architecture (Chicago, 1917), p. 165.

Giacomo De Nicola, “The Masterpiece of Giovanni di Paolo,” Burlington Magazine 33, 184 (1918), pp. 45–54, pl. I.

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University: Collection of Mediaeval and Renaissance Paintings (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1919), p. 121.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, Paintings, and Drawings (Chicago, 1920), p. 62.

Carl H. Weigelt, in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker, vol. 14 (Leipzig, 1921), p. 135.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, and Paintings (Chicago, 1922), p. 71.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, and Paintings (Chicago, 1923), p. 71.

Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., A History of Italian Painting (New York, 1923), p. 95.

G. Soulier, Les Influences orientales dans la peinture toscane (Paris, 1924), p. 206.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), p. 159, no. 2028.

Rose Mary Fischkin, “Two Paintings by Matteo di Giovanni,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 20, 3 (1926), p. 30.

Mary Rose Fischkin, “Martin A. Ryerson Collection of Paintings and Sculpture, XIII to XVIII, Loaned to The Art Institute of Chicago” (unpub. MS. 1926, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago), pp. 30–34.

Richard Offner, Italian Primitives at Yale University (New Haven, 1927), p. 40.

Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, vol. 9 (The Hague, 1927), pp. 427–30, fig. 276.

Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection (Paris, 1928), under no. XLVI.

Kurt Erdmann, “Orientalische Tierteppiche auf Bildern des XIV. und XV. Jahrhunderts: Eine Studie zu den Anfängen des orientalischen Knüpfteppichs,” Jahrbuch der preussischen Kunstsammlungen 50 (1929), p. 283.

Emilio Cecchi, Pietro Lorenzetti (Milan, 1930), p. 27.

Curt H. Weigelt, Sienese Painting of the Trecento (New York, 1930), p. 86 n. 75.

Lionello Venturi, Pitture italiane in America (Milan, 1931), no pag., pl. CXXXVI.

Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance (Oxford, 1932), p. 245.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1932), p. 180.

G. H. Edgell, A History of Sienese Painting (New York, 1932), pp. 218–20, figs. 307, 309.

William R. Valentiner, “Paintings in the Collection of Martin A. Ryerson” (unpub. MS [1932], Archives, Art Institute), no pag.

Daniel Catton Rich, “The Paintings of Martin A. Ryerson,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago 27, 1 (1933), pp. 6–8, ill.

Alfred M. Frankfurter, “Art in the Century of Progress,” Fine Arts 20 (1933), p. 60.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Brief Illustrated Guide to the Collections (Chicago, 1935), pp. 20–21, ill.

Hans Tietze, Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika (Vienna, 1935), pp. 37, 325, no. 37, ill.

Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento (Milan, 1936), p. 211.

John Pope-Hennessy, Giovanni di Paolo, 1403–1483 (London, 1937), pp. 80–90, pl. XXI.

René Brimo, Art et goût: L’Évolution du goût aux États-Unis d’après l’histoire des collections (Paris, 1938), p. 92.

Robert Langton Douglas, review of Giovanni di Paolo by J. Pope-Hennessy, in Burlington Magazine 72, 418 (1938), pp. 44–47, ill.

Helen F. Mackenzie, “Panels by Giovanni di Paolo of Siena,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago 32, 7 (1938), pp. 106–09, ill.

John Pope-Hennessy, “Letters: Giovanni di Paolo,” Burlington Magazine 72, 419 (1938), p. 95.

A. Weller, review of Giovanni di Paolo by John Pope-Hennessy, Art Bulletin 20 (1938), p. 126.

Henri Focillon, “The Fantastic in Medieval Art,” Magazine of Art 33, 1 (1940), p. 25, fig. 7.

Alfred M. Frankfurter, “The Mediaeval Style in Painting,” Art News 38, 20 (1940), p. 14, ill.

Cesare Brandi, “Giovanni di Paolo, II,” Le arti 30 (1941), pp. 325–28, 331–32, pl. CXXVII, fig. 42.

Regina Shoolman and Charles E. Slatkin, The Enjoyment of Art in America (Philadelphia and New York, 1942), p. 256, pl. 256.

Peleo Bacci, Documenti e commenti per la storia dell’arte (Florence, 1944), pp. 89–90.

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1945), p. 28, 29, ill.

H. G. Fell, “The Connoisseur Divan,” Connoisseur 116 (1945), p. 53.

J. Lipman, “The Composite Scene in Primitive Painting,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th ser., 29 (1946), p. 124, fig. 5.

Cesare Brandi, Giovanni di Paolo (Florence, 1947), pp. 44–48, 51–52, 120, fig. 55.

John Pope-Hennessy, Sienese Quattrocento Painting (Oxford, 1947), pp. 9, 13, 27, fig. 13, pls. XXVIII–29.

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1948), p. 25, ill.

Cesare Brandi, Quattrocentisti senesi (Milan, 1949), pp. 101, 261–62, pl. 149.

Ugo Galetti and Ettore Camesasca, Enciclopedia della pittura italiana, vol. 1 (Milan, 1950), pp. 1164–65, 1167.

Martin Davies, National Gallery Catalogues: The Earlier Italian Schools (London, 1951), p. 191, under no. 5454; reprinted (London, 1961).

George Kaftal, Iconography of the Saints in Tuscan Painting (Florence, 1952), p. 552.

Art News 51,4 (1952), col. 552.

Mario Salmi, L’arte italiana, vol. 1 (Rome, 1953), p. 431.

Frederick A. Sweet, “La pittura italiana all’Art Institute di Chicago,” Le vie del mondo: Rivista mensile del Touring Club Italiano 15 (1953), pp. 694 (ill.), 696–97.

Enzo Carli, La pittura senese (Milan, 1955), pp. 224, 226, pl. 147.

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, “Giovannino Battista: A Study in Renaissance Religious Symbolism,” Art Bulletin 37, 2 (1955), pp. 90–91 n. 33.

Enzo Carli, Sienese Painting (Greenwich, Connecticut, 1956), pp. 63–64, pl. 116.

Louis Réau, Iconographie de l’art Chrétien, vol. 2, pt. 1, (Paris, 1956), pp. 442, 450, 452, 455–56, 458.

G. U., “Schede di restauro,” Bollettino dell’Istituto Centrale del Restauro 27–28 (1956), p. 160.

John Pope-Hennessy, “Sassetta and Giovanni di Paolo: The Renaissance in Siena,” Art News Annual 27 (1958), pp. 133, 137, 142, 144–48, 151, 154, 180.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), pp. 36, 179, ill.

Enzo Carli, “Problemi e restauri di Giovanni di Paolo,” Pantheon 19 (1961), pp. 163–77.

Ernest T. De Wald, Italian Painting, 1200-1600 (New York, 1961), p. 339, fig. 18.3.

Hans Huth, “Italienische Kunstwerke im Art Institute von Chicago, USA,” in Miscellanea Bibliothecae Hertzianae (Munich, 1961), p. 517.

John Pope-Hennessy, “Giovanni di Paolo,” in Encyclopedia of World Art, vol. 6 (New York, 1962), col. 357, pl. 381.

“The Great Grey City,” Apollo 84 (1966), p. 177.

Frederick A. Sweet, “Great Chicago Collectors,” Apollo 84 (1966), pp. 198, 202, fig. 22.

Victor Lasareff, “Saggi sulla pittura veneziana dei sec. XIII-XIV: La maniera greca e il problema della scuola cretese (II),” Arte veneta 20 (1966), p. 48.

Elizabeth Ourusoff de Fernandez-Gimenez, “Giovanni di Paolo: The Life of St. Catherine of Siena,” Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art 54 (1967), pp. 105–07, fig. 3.

Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools (London, 1968), vol. 1, p. 176.

Art Institute of Chicago, Grands Musées 2 (Paris [1968]), pp. 11, 20, ill., 67.

Bernhard Degenhart and Annegrit Schmitt, Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300-1450, pt. 1, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1968), p. 320, under no. 240.

Frederick Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (Englewood Cliffs and New York, 1969), pp. 312–13, ill.; 3d revised edition (New York, 1987).

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (London, 1970), pp. 26–27, ill.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1972), pp. 89, 416, 571.

Katharine Kuh, “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things,” Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine (April 23, 1972), pp. 32, 34, ill.

Millard Meiss, “Sts. Elijah and John the Baptist” by Pietro Lorenzetti; “The Baptism” by Giovanni di Paolo, exh. cat. (Princeton University, The Art Museum, 1973), pp. 3–5.

Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani, vol. 6 (Turin, 1974), p. 56.

Millard Meiss, “A New Panel by Giovanni di Paolo from His Altarpiece of the Baptist,” Burlington Magazine 116, 851 (1974), pp. 73–78 (ill.).

Regina Shoolman Slatkin, “François Boucher: St. John the Baptist. A Study in Religious Imagery,” The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 62 (1975), p. 8, fig. 6.

Marvin Eisenberg, “A Late Trecento Custodia with the Life of St. Eustace,” in Studies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Painting in Honor of Millard Meiss, ed. Irvin Lavin and John Plummer, vol. 1 (New York, 1977), p. 143 n. 1.

Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Masterpieces (Chicago, 1978), pp. 40–41.

Sotheby’s, Monaco, Beaux tableaux anciens, sale cat. (Sotheby’s, June 13, 1982), under lot. 14.

Enzo Carli and Giulietta Chelazzi Dini, in Il gotico a Siena: Miniature, pitture, oreficerie, oggetti, d’arte, exh. cat. (Siena, Palazzo Pubblico, 1982), pp. 352, 359.

Ellis Waterhouse, “Earlier Paintings in the Earlier Years of the Art Institute: The Role of the Private Collectors,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 10 (1983), p. 90.

Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr., Pictures and Punishment: Art and Criminal Prosecution during the Florentine Renaissance (Ithaca and London, 1985), pp. 150–152.

Paul Pieper, Die deutschen, niederländischen und italienischen Tafelbilder bis um 1530 (Münster, 1986), pp. 529–35, ill.

John Pope-Hennessy with Larry Kanter, The Robert Lehman Collection, vol. 1, Italian Paintings (New York, 1987), pp. 121–23.

Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago 1988), pp. 14–15, ill; reprinted (Chicago, 1999); revised editions (Chicago, 2009), (Chicago, 2013).

John Pope-Hennessy, “Giovanni di Paolo,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 46, 2 (1988), p. 20, fig. 23.

Carl Brandon Strehlke, in Painting in Renaissance Siena, 1420-1500, exh. cat. (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988), p. 216, fig. 1.

Miklós Boskovits with Serena Padovani, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Early Italian Painting, 1290–1470 (London, 1990), p. 113.

Musée Historique des Tissus de Lyon, Edouard Aynard: le fondateur du muse, exh. cat. (Lyon, Musée Historique des Tissus, 1990), pp. 38, 41.

Henk van Os, Sienese Altarpieces, 1215-1460: Form, Content, Function, vol. 2, 1344–1460 (Groningen, 1990), pp. 89, 218 n. 113.

Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon, and Nicholas Penny, Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in The National Gallery (New Haven and London, 1991), p. 278, fig. 25b.

Christopher Lloyd, Italian Paintings before 1600 in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1993) pp. 110–28, ill.

Katharine Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: By Artists Born Before 1865 (New York, 1995), p. 55.

Giovanna Damian, “Giovanni di Paolo” in Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Shoaf Turner, vol. 12 (London, 1996), p. 716.

Benjamin David, “Pope-Hennessy, Derrida and ‘Literary Residue’ in Visual Images: The Case of Sassetta’s Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece,” Studies in Iconography 19 (1998), p. 1, fig. 1.

Elke Anna Werner, Das Kunstwerk des Monats , exh. cat. (Westfälisches Landesmuseumfür Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, July 1999), no pag. no.

Élisabeth Mognetti and Esther Moench, in Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon, Musée du Petit Palais: Peintures et Sculptures (Paris, 1999), no page no.

Timothy Hyman, Sienese Paintings: The Art of a City-Republic (1278–1477) (New York, 2003), pp. 159, 169–174, fig. 145.

Timothy Bryan Smith, “Alberto Aringheri and the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist: Patronage, Politics, and the Cult of Relics in Renaissance Siena” (Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 2002), pp. 51–52, 69 n. 150, 343, fig. 87.

Dillian Gordon, National Gallery Catalogues: Italian Paintings, The Fifteenth Century (London, 2003), under nos. 5451–4, pp. 98–99.

N. R. Havely, Dante and the Franciscans: Poverty and the Papacy in the Commedia (Cambridge and New York, 2004), p. 148 n. 58.

Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2006), pp. 368–69, fig. 14.5.

John Wilde, “‘Nature is okay and everything else is questionable’,” in Things of Nature and the Nature of Things, exh. cat. (Madison, Wisconsin, Chazen Museum of Art, 2006), p. 19, fig. 16.

Jacob Wamberg, Landscape as World Picture: Tracing Cultural Evolution in Images, vol. 2 (Aarhus and Oakville, Connecticut, 2009), p. 205, fig. 11.30.

Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, Italian Renaissance: Understanding Its Meaning (Chichester, UK and Malden, Massachusetts, 2013), pp. 96–97, fig. 4.4.

Ownership History

Edourd Aynard, Lyons, by 1907 [see Perkins 1907]; sold Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, December 1–4, 1913 no. 51, to Kleinberger, Paris, as agent for Martin A. Ryerson (died 1932), Chicago, 1914 [an entry for June 18, 1914, in Ryerson’s notebook reads: “Bot [sic] of Kleinberter, Paris, 6 panels by Giovanni di Paolo (purchased by him at Aynard sale for 160 000 fr + 10%);” Art Institute Archives]; on loan to the Art Institute from 1914; bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1933.

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