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Barent Fabritius, The Naming of Saint John the Baptist

Key facts
Full title The Naming of Saint John the Baptist
Artist Barent Fabritius
Artist dates 1624 - 1673
Date made probably 1650-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 36.8 × 48 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1891
Inventory number NG1339
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Naming of Saint John the Baptist
Barent Fabritius

Two women sit on a bed playing with a baby – one of them holds out an apple for the little boy to grasp in his chubby fingers. With an encouraging smile, the other points it out to him. The baby is Christ’s cousin, John. This is his naming day and he will grow up to be known as John the Baptist.

Zachariah sits writing on a tablet beside them. He and his wife Elisabeth were past child-bearing age, so when an angel prophesied John’s birth, Zachariah doubted its possibility and had his voice taken away as a punishment. On the naming day, the guests asked Elisabeth if the baby was to be named Zachariah after his father, as was the custom; Elisabeth answered he would be called John. Surprised, they looked at Zachariah for confirmation. He wrote ‘His name is John’ and immediately recovered the power of speech.

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