Saint John the Baptist with Scenes from His Life, 1464–1507
Domingo Ram (Spanish, Aragonese, active 1464–1507)
Tempera on wood, gold ground; 37 1/2 x 27 1/4 in. (95.3 x 69.2 cm); entire retable 139 x 100 in. (353.1 x 254 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1925 (25.120.929)
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, appears in an elaborate costume with pendant bells and pomegranates. Recent scholarship has shown that these indicate his role as the High Priest, whose unique privilege it is to enter the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. Around his leg is a rope held by another priest, whose job it would be to extract the high priest's body if he died as a result of not properly carrying out his sacred duties.