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Martino Piazza, Saint John the Baptist in the Desert

Key facts
Full title Saint John the Baptist in the Desert
Artist Martino Piazza
Artist dates active about 1513 - 1522
Date made 1513-22
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 69.2 × 52.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1883
Inventory number NG1152
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint John the Baptist in the Desert
Martino Piazza

In this unusual scene, Saint John the Baptist crouches in a dark rocky grotto beside a spring from which he collects water. His slender cross, faintly painted in gold, can just be seen in the shadows behind him.

The painting is signed with a monogram: the letters MPP are surmounted by a T; a small drop hangs from each end of the cross-bar of the T, and its stem passes between a pair of wings. This is thought to be the monogram of Martino Piazza from Lodi, near Milan.

The delicate, graceful physique of the Baptist, the atmospheric effects in the mountainous landscape and the dramatic contrasts of light and dark, known as chiaroscuro, show the influence of the Milanese works of Leonardo da Vinci and his followers. Influences from artists from north of the Alps can also be detected in the luminous landscape, which is depicted with minute attention to naturalistic detail.

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