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Saint John the Baptist
Probably by Giovanni Buonconsiglio
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Saint John the Baptist is depicted here as though sitting for a portrait. The words on the scroll, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’, are taken from the Gospel of Saint John the Evangelist (John 1: 29 and 26). They refer to Christ who, like a lamb, will be sacrificed for the salvation of mankind. The Baptist is shown bust length, set back from the viewer behind a stone parapet – a portrait format inspired by Netherlandish examples and the work of Antonello da Messina, and particularly associated with the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini.

This painting was previously believed to be by Bartolomeo Montagna, but is probably a late work by his pupil Giovanni Buonconsiglio. Although the picture is obscured by a dirty varnish that has darkened, we can still appreciate the subtle lighting effects and striking realism of the face, set against the blue sky with pink-tinged clouds on the horizon.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Giovanni Buonconsiglio
Artist dates active 1495; died 1535/7
Full title Saint John the Baptist
Date made probably 1525-37
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 47.6 x 41.9 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3076
Location in Gallery Not on display
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