The saint is collecting water from a spring, an allusion to his baptising activity in the River Jordan. The words inscribed on the scroll, 'Behold the Lamb of God' (John 1: 29), were spoken by John when Jesus came to be baptised by him.

Formerly attributed to Annibale Carracci, the painting is now thought to be by one of his pupils.

X-radiographs reveal what appears to be a landscape with figures beneath the present composition.

The painting was purchased from the Angerstein collection.

Key facts

Artist dates
1560 - 1609
Full title
Saint John the Baptist seated in the Wilderness
Date made
early 17th century
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
133.7 x 96.6 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1824
Inventory number
Location in Gallery