Saint John the Baptist

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Saint John the Baptist sits on a stone ledge, his attribute of a reed cross leaning against his shoulder. John was a hermit and prophet who lived in the wilderness, baptising people in the river Jordan and preaching repentance of sins. The scroll in his right hand bears a Latin inscription: ECCE AGNUS DEI (‘Behold the Lamb of God’). These are the words the saint spoke when he baptised Christ and recognised him as the Messiah. This painting was part of the upper tier of a large, multi-panelled altarpiece made for the oratory of S. Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza, other parts of which are also in the National Gallery’s collection. The Virgin and Child appeared enthroned at the centre of the altarpiece; Saint John would originally have been looking at and gesturing to the infant Christ.

The National Gallery, London



Saint John the Baptist




Oil on canvas


H 55.2 x W 57.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1859

Work type



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