When depicting John the Baptist artists often added an outer garment of cloth, often in a red or orange toga-like arrangement. Here the artist has depicted John the Baptist clothed in robes of this type with the traditional attribute of the halo above John’s head.
John gazes downwards wistfully with a soft and gentle expression conveying his emotional state.
Saint John’s solemn pensiveness is reinforced by deep shadows that play across the body of the saint, with a bright light illuminating from above and to his right. Indeed, as John is lit strongly the bold contrasts between light and dark not only give dimension to John’s features but also the subtle use of chiaroscuro employed by the artist brings a dramatic element to the composition.
The story of John the Baptist comes from the New Testament, particularly the gospels, and from Flavius Josephus’s work, ‘The Antiquities of the Jews‘. After living an ascetic life in the desert, John emerged into the lower Jordan Valley preaching about the imminent arrival of God’s judgement, and urging his followers to repent their sins and be baptised in preparation for the coming Messiah.
John the Baptist’s preparatory message attracted thousands of followers to Jerusalem and Judea. Jesus came to John while he was baptising people in the River Jordan and asked to be baptised himself. John subsequently baptised Jesus in the River Jordan.
Francesco Curradi was born in Florence in 1570 son of the sculptor Taddeo Curradi. He is traditionally believed to have been a pupil of Giovanni Battista Naldini and graduated from the Accademia del Disegno in 1590. Curradi was one of the most sought-after painters of religious subjects in seventeenth century Florence: his works from the 1630s and 1640s present clear and uncomplicated compositions with a certain pious melancholy.
He played an important role in Florentine Seicento painting, fusing the ideology of the Counter Reformation with his own delicate decorative charm. A secure chronology for his work is, however, difficult to establish, for his mature style was established by 1620 and changed little after that.