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Moretto da Brescia, Christ blessing Saint John the Baptist

Key facts
Full title Christ blessing Saint John the Baptist
Artist Moretto da Brescia
Artist dates about 1498 - 1554
Date made about 1520-3
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 66.9 × 94.7 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3096
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ blessing Saint John the Baptist
Moretto da Brescia

In this painting from early in Moretto’s career, Christ blesses his cousin Saint John the Baptist, who kneels beside a river, wearing a tunic of camel skin. This episode is not mentioned in the Gospels and is not otherwise known in art. It may be that Christ has just been baptised by the saint in the River Jordan and is now about to go into the wilderness (Mark 1: 9–12).

This scene was presumably once part of a larger painting, which may have featured a half-length or bust-length portrait on the right. It has been suggested that this scene and Moretto’s small canvas of Christ in the Wilderness (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which is also a fragment, were once part of the same composition. However, the size of the figures is different, so the original character of this painting remains a mystery.

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