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Baptist Predella

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These four panels once formed part of a predella, the lowest part of an altarpiece. Together they tell the story of the life of John the Baptist, the prophet who preached the coming of Christ as the Messiah.

Events run from left to right like a comic strip. At the far left edge was a scene showing John’s birth, followed by his departure into the wilderness and then the baptism of Christ – the main event in John’s life. Another panel, which may have shown John preaching in the wilderness, would have followed, but this did not enter the National Gallery’s collection with the other panels and we don't know where it is now. The final scene shows the saint after his execution.

The predella was probably part of an polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) made by Giovanni di Paolo for the Augustinian church in Cortona.

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