The Youthful Saint John the Baptist

Domenico Pieratti Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 549

As their patron saint, John the Baptist was a prominent fixture in the homes of civic-minded Florentines. This large, lyric statuette by Pieratti, the city's first important Baroque sculptor, shows exacting yet expansive compositional experimentation. A masterly study in frozen motion, it evinces discerning responses to lessons learned from great masters. The virile type, an artfully unkempt boy of the people, is Michelangelesque, with a nod to the head of David. From Caravaggio comes the adjustment of limbs in angles to maximize contrasts of light and shadow. Strikingly Caravaggesque is the youth's arm hooked over his chest, holding a honeycomb (referring to the Baptist's wilderness diet). His other hand holds the remnants of his shepherd's crook and a scroll which undoubtedly announced Ecce agnus dei (behold the lamb of God) in deference to his cousin Jesus. The surface is abraded: the work stood in a garden around a hundred years ago, but mercifully briefly, not long enough to diminish its authority and charm.

The Youthful Saint John the Baptist, Domenico Pieratti (Italian, Florence 1600–1656 Rome), Marble, Italian, Florence

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