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Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Two Disciples

A work made of tempera on panel.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of tempera on panel.

Date:

1455/60

Artist:

Giovanni di Paolo
Italian, 1398–1482

About this artwork

This is one of six paintings illustrating scenes from the life of Saint John the Baptist, a prophet considered a forerunner of Jesus. They were originally part of a group of 12 that possibly formed the doors of a reliquary shrine to the saint. The first painting depicts John twice, leaving civilization—marked by ornate buildings and manicured agricultural fields—and entering the wilderness to become a hermit. In the next scene, John wears a hair shirt, symbolizing his ascetic life in the wilderness, as he announces that Jesus, at his right, is the savior prophesied as the agnus dei, the Lamb of God.

The following three panels depict John the Baptist’s imprisonment and execution at the hands of Herod, ruler of Galilee. According to one version of the story, Herod—seen in blue at the head of the table in the fourth panel from the left—was so taken by his stepdaughter Salome’s dancing that he reluctantly obliged when she requested John’s beheading (visualized gruesomely in the fifth panel). Giovanni di Paolo related the Baptist’s complex biography with expressive figures represented multiple times to indicate their movement through highly imaginative and stylized settings.

Status

On View, Gallery 204

Department

Painting and Sculpture of Europe

Artist

Giovanni di Paolo

Title

Saint John the Baptist in Prison Visited by Two Disciples

Place

Italy (Artist's nationality)

Date

1455–1460

Medium

Tempera on panel

Dimensions

68.3 × 40 cm (26 7/8 × 15 3/4 in.); Painted surface: 66.3 × 37.8 cm (26 1/16 × 14 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection

Reference Number

1933.1012

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https://api.artic.edu/api/v1/artworks/16162/manifest.json

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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