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Guido Reni, Christ embracing Saint John the Baptist

Key facts
Full title Christ embracing Saint John the Baptist
Artist Guido Reni
Artist dates 1575 - 1642
Date made about 1640
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 48.5 × 68.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1844
Inventory number NG191
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ embracing Saint John the Baptist
Guido Reni

This scene depicts an intimate moment between Christ and Saint John the Baptist, here identified by his camel-skin garment and reed cross.

The pair are more frequently portrayed meeting as young children, in an episode drawn from biblical apocrypha, or during Christ’s baptism, which was performed by Saint John. Guido Reni has instead chosen to paint the youths embracing in a nondescript location. John clasps his hands reverently as he turns towards Christ, who looks back with a serene expression.

The loose brushwork and pale, limited colour palette indicate that this work was painted late in the artist’s career. The figures are rendered in fluid, sweeping brushstrokes, and lack the finish and detail evident in earlier works. Reni’s late works typically represent devotional subjects in simplified, half-length compositions, as here.

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