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Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist
Zanobi Machiavelli
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Saint John the Baptist, identified by his camel hair shirt, makes direct eye contact with the viewer. He clutches a scroll, its Latin inscription containing the words he spoke to Christ after baptising him: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1: 29).

He is joined by John the Evangelist, one of the Twelve Apostles. His quill refers to his role as one of the four authors of the Gospels, and the black eagle at his feet is his traditional symbol.

This panel is a fragment of the same altarpiece to which another work in the National Gallery’s collection, Saint Mark and Saint Augustine, belongs. A lost or unidentified central panel is likely to have shown the Virgin Mary and Christ Child, but it’s also possible that a sculpture formed the centre of this ensemble. Either way, the orientation of the figures here suggests that they were originally on the left-hand side, with the other panel on the right.

Key facts
Artist Zanobi Machiavelli
Artist dates about 1418 - 1479
Full title Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist
Group Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made probably about 1470
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 128.9 x 50.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG587
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two panels, one showing Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist and the other Saints Mark and Augustine, are fragments of an altarpiece. A lost or unidentified central panel is likely to have shown the Virgin Mary and Christ Child; if that is the case, the tilted floor on which the saints stand would have continued seamlessly across all the panels. But it’s also possible that a sculpture formed the centre of this ensemble.

Nothing is known about the original layout and context of these panels, but the depiction of Saint Augustine on the right-hand panel suggests that they were made for a foundation associated with the Augustinian Order.

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