St. John the Baptist (Leonardo)

St. John the Baptist (Leonardo)

St. John the Baptist
Artist Leonardo da Vinci
Year 1513–1516
Type Oil on walnut wood
Dimensions 69 cm × 57 cm (27.1653543 in × 22.4409449 in)
Location Louvre, Paris

St. John the Baptist is an oil painting on walnut wood by Leonardo da Vinci. Completed from 1513 to 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his final painting. The original size of the work was 69x57 cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.

The piece depicts St. John the Baptist in isolation. St. John is dressed in pelts, has long curly hair, and is smiling in an enigmatic manner which is reminiscent of Leonardo's famous Mona Lisa. He holds a reed cross in his left hand while his right hand points up toward heaven (like St Anne in Leonardo's cartoon The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist). It is believed that the cross and wool skins were added at a later date by another painter.

The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to John's would increase the importance of a work with a religious conceit.


Numerous copies of St. John the Baptist made by Leonardeschi exist and are kept in various places, including:

  • Salai, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan
  • Bernardino Luini, National Museum, Naples
  • Pontedera, Crastan Collection
  • Anonymous painter of 16th century, The Walters art gallery
  • Anonymous painter of 16th century, Château de Blois
  • School of Leonardo da Vinci, Genoa, Palazzo Rosso
  • Anonymous painter of 16th century, Montauban, Museum Ingres
  • Anonymous Milanese painter of 16th century, previously at Lord Nortwick's Gallery at Thirlestane House, Cheltenham

External links

  • Interactive online application by the Louvre Museum, Milan City Council and sponsored by Eni, featuring zoomable high resolution scientific imagery (color, IR, X-ray, UV etc.) and commentary on the painting. The viewer is based on IIPImage.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, exhibition catalog fully online as PDF from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on St. John the Baptist (see index)

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