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Saint John The Baptist

Painting, 1513, 69×57 cm

Description of the artwork «Saint John The Baptist»

At the time of his death in 1519 Leonardo da Vinci owned only three of his pictorial works. And all three paintings – "Madonna with child and St. Anna", "La Gioconda"and "Saint John The Baptist" - the artist could not finish. Leonardo continued to work on them, dealing with new and new thin layers of paint, adding detail and bringing to perfection a smoky sfumato effect. The painting "Saint John the Baptist", which is considered to be the last work of da Vinci, recognized by most critics the pinnacle of the artist's skill in this technique.

This picture also represents a sample drawn amazing play of light and shadow. John the Baptist seemingly envelops the darkness, approaching from all sides. Thus the figure of the Saint, seems filled with an inner radiance, because to accurately determine the source of Golden light, snatching her out of the darkness, impossible.

"John the Baptist", as, indeed, most of the works of the artist, to this day remains the subject of many disputes, assumptions and theories. No experts doubt only one – the authorship of Leonardo. In particular, the Secretary of the cardinal of Aragon Antonio de Beatis in his diary writes about visiting the Studio "the most excellent painter of our time" On 10 October 1517 and talks about the three paintings, including "John the Baptist".

After the death of da Vinci, the painting became part of the collection of king Francis I at Fontainebleau. In 1625 English king Charles I swapped "John the Baptist" Louis XIII inviting the French monarch the "Holy family" and Titian "Portrait Of Erasmus Of Rotterdam"Holbein. In 1649, a collection of Charles was sold out, and Leonardo was in the hands of a German banker Eberhard Abacha. "John the Baptist" returned to France in 1661, and again under the tutelage of the country's ruler, Louis XIV. After the revolution, the painting took place in the Louvre, where it remains to this day.

Before and after da Vinci: how artists have portrayed John the Baptist


John the Baptist, one of the most iconic biblical figures, for a long time portrayed only icons. Painters often treated to two scenes from the life of the Saint the baptism of Christand execution of John (1, 2, 3). The same attributes of the prophet had long dark hair, beard, clothes made of coarse camel hair and a thin cross made of reeds. Also often portrayed John the Baptist with upraised forefinger of the right hand. This gesture symbolized the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. In the painting was another popular motive: baby John often appears next to the infant Christ and the virgin (1, 2).

Special attention is given picture "Baptism Of Christ" Andrea del Verokko. Taking to his Studio bastard da Vinci, Verokko hardly imagine that this boy will become a genius painter and inventor. However, the artistic talent in Leonardo he clearly saw and allowed the student to write the figure of the angel in the corner "Baptism of Christ". This angel is considered the first preserved scenic work of da Vinci.

Four decades later, Leonardo will write his "St. John the Baptist," which will begin a new pictorial era. Giving the character recognizable attributes, the artist has made it infinitely far from the canonical images of stern bearded ascetic. The face of this, John, is framed by Golden curls, can be equally both male and female. It is believed that the androgynous heroes of the later works of da Vinci symbolize the transition of European painting to mannerism.

After Leonardo's John the Baptist, European artists begin to portray the beardless, half-naked, wholesome and youthful energy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The exception was, perhaps, the El Greco paintings in which the image of the prophet will be close to traditional.

The mystery of the painting by Leonardo da Vinci


According to a less popular theory, which hold lovers search puzzles and secret codes in the works of da Vinci, this painting depicts not John the Baptist, and Hermes Trismegistus, who stood at the head of the Pantheon of magical-occult teachings called "Hermeticism". Saying that Leonardo, struck the secret knowledge of the "pressure hull" (the main books Hermetists), was not only to apply them in practice, but also to encrypt in his paintings.

Proponents of this theory claim that with this knowledge, da Vinci was able to stay ahead of the science of his time, and to create drawings of structures, building of which at that time was simply impossible. Hermeticism, which served as the main doctrine of the European alchemists, and one of his sacred texts – the "emerald tablet" - a source of the famous occult axiom: "That which is below is similar to what is above". Supporters of the version that the painting by Leonardo depicts Hermes Trismegistus, believe that a gesture pointing to the sky with a finger symbolises this axiom.

Assistant, student... lover?


Gian Giacomo Caprotti Yes Oreno reason received from Leonardo nickname Salaino ("devil"). The boy, whose father was the caretaker of the vineyard da Vinci became the apprentice and pupil of the artist along with Francesco Melziat the age of 10 years and stayed with the master for more than two and a half decades. In childhood by Giacomo actually was a real devil, that much got away with it thanks to the angelic appearance. Giorgio Vasaridescribed him as "graceful, handsome youth with fine curly hair, who loved Leonardo". Da Vinci himself was given to his disciple much less flattering characteristics: "a liar, a thief, stubborn and a glutton". Salai really is constantly stealing everything that wasn't nailed down (including your teacher), but almost never managed to catch.

Salai and Francesco Melzi accompanied Leonardo in his travels to Rome and to France. At that time Melzi was the principal assistant and personal Secretary of the artist, among other things, he was preparing for publication the records of da Vinci. Salai was described as a simple servant and messenger. Many researchers of creativity of da Vinci's agree that Leonardo kept Giacomo near me because of a romantic relationship that connects them. In favor of this say a few erotic drawings of da Vinci, including an image of a naked studentin a pose almost identical to the one in which depicts John the Baptist. The most common version, Salai was the model for this painting. A group of Italian scientists went further and found evidence that da Vinci's apprentice, dressed in a dress that excites the imagination of visitors of the Louvre enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa. The Louvre, by the way, this theory categorically rejects.

Salai left Leonardo and left France in 1518. He returned to Milan and began working in the same vineyard where previously he worked, his father. Next year half of the vineyard was his property, according to the last will of da Vinci. Student Leonardo was an artist, though not too outstanding. He wrote under the pseudonym of Andrea Salai and created some pretty good copies of the works of da Vinci. The most famous painting of Giacomo became "Monna The Bath"the so-called "Nude Mona Lisa", the basis for which could serve as a lost painting by Leonardo. Salai claimed that da Vinci left him some of his paintings, however, numerous studies have allowed to establish that belonged to Giacomo paintings are only replicas that are likely to have written it himself (this includes a copy of the "Mona Lisa" from the Prado Museum and "St. John the Baptist", which is stored in Milan).

Of the prophets – the gods


The painting "Saint John the Baptist" is associated with another famous work of da Vinci "Bacchus". However, despite the fact that she attributed to Leonardo, disputes about authorship are still underway. Some researchers believe that "Bacchus" was written by one of leonardesco surviving sketch artist. Among the possible authors of the painting are called Cesare da Sesto, Marco d Oggiono, Francesco Melzi, Cesare and Bernadino.

That picture was created based on sketch da Vincithere is no doubt. This is evidenced by the identical posture of the character and position of his hands. Here only the sketch of da Vinci depicts John the Baptist. How did the Christian prophet became a Greek God?

According to one version, which ascribes the authorship of the "Bacchus" da Vinci originally called the painting "St. John the Baptist in the wilderness." Moreover, the prophet was depicted in the image is far from canonical, he was still completely naked. A scholar and patron Cassiano dal Pozzo, who saw the work at Fontainebleau in 1625, noted that, despite the consummate artistic skills of the author, depicted in the painting, the man could not be John the Baptist, because such an unseemly way, not cause of religious awe and pious thoughts.

John the Baptist was Bacchus, between 1683 and 1693 years, that is, without the participation of Leonardo da Vinci. At the same time the picture appeared traditional of Dionysus leopard skin, and his head the unknown artist had decorated with a wreath of grape vines.

There is not a very popular theory that the author of "Bacchus" is Salai, who served as the model for the sketch of da Vinci, as "John the Baptist".

Author: Eugene Sidelnikov
from 1450 rub
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Religious scene

Style of art: Renaissance

Technique: Oil

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1513

Size: 69×57 cm

Artwork in selections: 51 selections

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