Artist: Mattia Preti (Il Cavalier Calabrese) (Italian, Taverna 1613–1699 Valletta)
Date: ca. 1650
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 68 x 47 3/4 in. (172.7 x 121.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Melissa O. Aronson, in memory of Thomas P. Miller, 2005
Accession Number: 2005.477
Saint John the Baptist is shown seated in the wilderness exhorting the viewer to repentance, his right hand pointing heavenwards, his skin tanned through years in the desert. The lamb stands for Christ, the "lamb of God."
One of the protagonists of Baroque painting, Preti worked in Rome, Modena, and Naples before moving to Malta, where he was elevated to knighthood and spent the rest of his career. The expressive intensity and boldly sculptural conception of the Saint John link it with Preti's frescoes in the church of S. Biagio in Modena, carried out in 1651–52; there are echoes of the most vigorous manner of Domenichino and Guercino.