Early 19th Century
St. John the Baptist as a Child

Oil on canvas
Image size: 15 x 19 inches (38 x 48.25 cm)
Handmade gilt pierced frame
£4,500

 

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This is a beautiful early 19th Century Italian Old Master oil painting with the subject matter of Saint John the Baptist as a very young child. The tender detail in the face and the palette of soft warm tones makes this a staggeringly beautiful oil painting.

This piece presents Saint John the Baptist in his traditional childhood setting: the desert. John wears a hair shirt, symbolising his ascetic life in the wilderness. As Saint Luke described it (Luke I, 80) ‘And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel’. This explains that his only clothing is an animal hide. He looks at the observer with a charming smile, as if sharing his love of the lamb that symbolises Jesus Christ.

The text that appears on the fabric seems to read ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ (behold the lamb of God). This phrase was uttered by St. John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus for the first time as noted in John 1:29.