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Saint John the Baptist: Right Pinnacle Panel
Giovanni da Milano
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This figure has been mistaken for the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, because the prophet’s words are inscribed in Latin on the scroll he carries: ‘Behold the Virgin shall conceive.’ But a camel-hair tunic peeks out from underneath the red robes, identifying him as Saint John the Baptist: this is what the saint wore during his time preaching in the desert (Matthew 3: 4; Mark 1: 6). Close examination with a microscope reveals that there is another inscription – the original – underneath.

This panel comes from a group that once formed the uppermost tier of a large altarpiece. It was originally placed opposite an image of the Virgin Mary; together they framed an image of Christ as judge of mankind. They might have been paired here because both are traditionally thought to intervene on behalf of humanity at the Last Judgement, when souls would either be condemned to hell or elected to paradise.

Key facts
Artist Giovanni da Milano
Artist dates documented 1346 - 1369
Full title Saint John the Baptist: Right Pinnacle Panel
Series Pinnacle Panels
Date made about 1365
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 89.3 x 37.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG579.8
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Pinnacle Panels

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The three panels belonged to an altarpiece that was possibly made for the church of San Salvatore al Vescovo, the Bishop of Florence’s church, located within the Palazzo Arcivescovile. They are pinnacle panels – those appearing at the top, crowning the altarpiece.

The central pinnacle shows the ‘Apocalyptic Christ’, the judge of humanity at the end of the world, according to the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1: 13–18). This would have been flanked by panels that show the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist, who turn inwards to look towards Christ. Both figures were traditionally seen as intercessors for humanity at this moment of judgement, making their presence here, surrounding Christ as judge, appropriate.

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