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Raphael, Saint John the Baptist Preaching

Key facts
Full title Saint John the Baptist Preaching
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Series The Ansidei Altarpiece, San Fiorenzo, Perugia
Date made 1505
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 26.2 × 52 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1983
Inventory number NG6480
Location Room 26
Collection Main Collection
Saint John the Baptist Preaching

This painting is the only surviving scene from the predella (base) of Raphael’s altarpiece for the Ansidei chapel in S. Fiorenzo, Perugia. The main panel of the altarpiece, ‘The Ansidei Madonna’, is also in the National Gallery’s collection. This predella panel would have been placed beneath the figure of John the Baptist. Below Saint Nicholas was a shipwreck, probably relating to one of the miracles he performed. That scene seems not to have survived.

John the Baptist appears as the forerunner of Christ, preaching to a crowd of men (Luke 3: 1–17). He can be identified by his traditional camel-skin costume, which he wears beneath a billowing red mantle, and by the thin reed cross in his left hand. He points towards heaven, referring to the coming of Christ. When the altarpiece was intact, he would also have been pointing to the identically dressed Baptist in the main panel above, who points towards the infant Christ.

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The Ansidei Altarpiece, San Fiorenzo, Perugia


Raphael painted this altarpiece for the Ansidei family chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas in the Servite Church of S. Fiorenzo in Perugia. The date MDV (1505) is inscribed in gold on the hem of the Virgin’s mantle.

The altarpiece would have consisted of the main panel, featuring the enthroned Virgin and Christ Child flanked by Saint Nicholas on the right and Saint John the Baptist on the left, and a lower horizontal set of painted panels collectively known as a predella. One of the two narrative scenes from the predella, Saint John the Baptist preaching, is also in the National Gallery’s collection. The other predella scene, which probably depicted a posthumous miracle of Saint Nicholas, is missing. Each narrative scene would have been positioned beneath the saint in the main panel to whom it related.