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Masaccio, Saints Jerome and John the Baptist

Key facts
Full title Saints Jerome and John the Baptist
Artist Masaccio
Artist dates 1401 - 1428/9?
Series Santa Maria Maggiore Altarpiece
Date made about 1428-9
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 125 × 58.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1950
Inventory number NG5962
Location Gallery E
Collection Main Collection
Saints Jerome and John the Baptist

Saint Jerome, wearing his red cardinal’s hat, and Saint John the Baptist stand side by side on a grassy hillock. Saint John’s sturdy toes interrupt a carpet of wild flowers, including yellow dandelions, violets and strawberries.

A lion sits at Saint Jerome’s feet – according to his legend, when living as a monk near Bethlehem Jerome pulled a thorn from a lion’s foot; it then became his companion. John the Baptist is shown in the camel-hair tunic that he wore when he was in the wilderness, preaching and baptising people in the river Jordan. His preached about Christ and his significance, and so he carries a cross and a scroll with the words he spoke about Christ: ‘Behold! The Lamb of God.’

The panel comes from a large double-sided altarpiece that Masolino and Masaccio collaborated on for the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This panel is by Masaccio, but Masolino had to complete the altarpiece after the artist’s death in 1428/9.

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Santa Maria Maggiore Altarpiece


The Florentine painters Masaccio and Masolino often collaborated on large-scale projects. These panels come from a double-sided altarpiece made for the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It was placed in the canon’s choir and probably commissioned by the wealthy and notable Colonna family.

One side would have been visible to only the canons – the clergymen connected specifically to the church and bound by its rules – who worshipped in this chapel and the other side to all who prayed in the church. The chapel was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist which explains his presence with Saint Jerome on the panel by Masaccio, Saints Jerome and John the Baptist. The painting by Masolino, A Pope (Saint Gregory?) and Saint Matthias, was once on the other side of the same panel. Masolino completed the altarpiece after Masaccio died in Rome of the plague in 1428/9.