Saint John the Baptist retiring to the Desert: Predella Panel

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The artist shows John the Baptist leaving the city for the wilderness, where he lived a simple life preaching about Jesus Christ. We see his dainty figure twice in this scene, which is unusual in Italian art. He appears first leaving the city gates with a small bundle of possessions, and then climbing a steep path into the craggy mountains beyond. By including the fertile valley of patchwork fields below, the artist has highlighted the civilised place John leaves behind.

The delicately painted roses on either side of this panel are in different stages of bloom. Giovanni di Paolo used this type of floral decoration throughout his career. He might have picked it up from the Florentine painter Gentile da Fabriano, who included decorative flowers in the frame of his magnificent altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi (now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence) which Giovanni di Paolo probably saw when he visited Florence in the late 1430s.

The National Gallery, London



Saint John the Baptist retiring to the Desert: Predella Panel




Egg tempera on wood


H 30.5 x W 49 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought with a contribution from The Art Fund, 1944

Work type



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