Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist, lies in a bed decorated with paintings. A midwife holds the infant saint in the foreground, while another dries a towel by the fire. At the right Saint Zacharias is seated; Elizabeth insisted that the child be called John, and because Zacharias was mute he showed his agreement by writing 'His name is John'. From that moment he could speak. New Testament (Luke 1 : 57-64).
This painting is part of a predella of an altarpiece showing scenes from the life of Saint John the Baptist; three other panels in the collection come from the same predella: 'Saint John the Baptist retiring to the Desert', 'The Baptism of Christ' and 'The Head of John the Baptist brought to Herod'. The panels have been associated with an altarpiece dated 1454 of the 'Virgin and Child with Saints' (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) which includes Saint John the Baptist.
active by 1417; died 1482
The Birth of Saint John the Baptist: Predella Panel
Medium and support
Egg tempera on wood
30.5 x 36 cm
Bought with a contribution from The Art Fund, 1944
Location in Gallery