Saint John the Baptist is one of the patron saints of Florence, where representations of him as a youth enjoyed a special popularity in the fifteenth century. In its format and profile depiction of the saint, this picture resembles marble reliefs. Though he trained with Cosimo Rosselli, this beautiful early work is strongly influenced by Filippino Lippi.
Bentivoglio, Florence; Reverend John Sanford, Casino Torrigiani, Florence, and London (about 1832–39; his sale, Christie's, London, March 9, 1839, no. 63, as by Pollaiuolo, to Yates); Charles Sackville Bale, London (by 1849–d. 1880; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 14, 1881, no. 297, as by Pollaiuolo, for £178.10 to Colnaghi); [Martin Colnaghi, London, 1881]; Edouard Aynard, Lyons (1881–d. 1913; his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, December 1–4, 1913, no. 60, as by Piero di Cosimo); [Galerie Trotti, Paris, from 1913]; Michael Dreicer, New York (until d. 1921)
London. British Institution. June 1849, no. 106 (as by Pollaiuolo, lent by C. Sackville Bale).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
Florence. Palazzo Vecchio and Casa Buonarroti. "Giovinezza di Michelangelo," October 6, 1999–January 9, 2000, no. 18.
Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece," December 22, 2003–March 31, 2004, no. IV.11.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 330, attributes it to Antonio Pollaiuolo.
Emile Bertaux. Catalogue des tableaux anciens; écoles primitives et de la Renaissance; écoles Anglaise, Flamande, Française, Hollandaise des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Galerie Georges Petit, Paris. December 1–4, 1913, p. 75, no. 60, ill. opp. p. 75, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo; compares it with the profile portrait attributed to Pollaiuolo in the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum in Milan.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence, and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. Vol. 6, Sienese and Florentine Masters of the Sixteenth Century. London, 1914, p. 48 n. 6 (from p. 47), lists it as a work by Piero.
H. B. W[ehle]. "The Michael Dreicer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (May 1922), p. 102, ill. p. 106, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo and relates it to Piero's portrait of Simonetta Vespucci (Musée Condé, Chantilly).
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 13, The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation. The Hague, 1931, p. 350, notes the influence of Filippino Lippi and attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 454, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 390.
Katharine B. Neilson. Filippino Lippi: A Critical Study. Cambridge, Mass., 1938, p. 129, fig. 58, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo, but observes that it was painted under the influence of Filippino; notes its similarity to an angel by him in San Gimignano.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 60–61, ill.
Robert Langton Douglas. Piero di Cosimo. Chicago, 1946, p. 114, pl. XLIX, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Edoardo Arslan. Letter. April 21, 1952, tentatively ascribes the painting to Filippino Lippi.
Benedict Nicolson. "The Sanford Collection." Burlington Magazine 97 (July 1955), pp. 208, 213, no. 34, quotes the Sanford collection catalogues, stating that it was acquired in Florence as a work by Pollaiuolo; attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Paola Morselli. "Ragioni di un pittore fiorentino: Piero di Cosimo (continua)." L'arte, n.s., 56 (July–December 1957), fig. 20, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Paola Morselli. "Piero di Cosimo, saggio di un catalogo delle opere." L'arte, n.s., 57 (January–March 1958), p. 82, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo.
Federico Zeri. "Rivedendo Piero di Cosimo." Paragone 9 (July 1959), p. 48, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo and observes the influence of Filippino; dates it about 1482–84.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 176.
Luigi Grassi. Piero di Cosimo e il problema della conversione al Cinquecento nella pittura fiorentina ed emiliana. Rome, 1963, pp. 37–38, attributes it to Piero di Cosimo and dates it about 1490.
Mina Bacci. Piero di Cosimo. Milan, 1966, pp. 24, 65–66, pl. 2, dates to before Piero di Cosimo's trip to Rome (1481–82) with Cosimo Rosselli.
Francesco Abbate. "Review of Bacci 1966." Paragone 19 (January 1968), p. 75, includes it among the artist's early works, but does not agree with Bacci's (1966) argument that it dates before Piero's Roman trip.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, p. 174, ill., call it an early work of Piero's, depending heavily on Filippino Lippi.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 164, 413, 606.
Mina Bacci. L'opera completa di Piero di Cosimo. Milan, 1976, p. 85, no. 4, ill.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 239, 241, fig. 425 (color).
Sharon Fermor. Piero di Cosimo: Fiction, Invention and "Fantasìa". London, 1993, p. 117, fig. 47, dates it about 1485.
Anna Forlani Tempesti and Elena Capretti. Piero di Cosimo: catalogo completo. Florence, 1996, pp. 94–95, no. 4, ill., compare it to an angel in Filippino Lippi's tondo in the Palazzo Pubblico, San Gimignano; note that Piero's naturalistic rendering of the youth derives from Desiderio da Settignano's images of children; agree with Everett Fahy (handwritten note on Witt Library photograph), who attributes the Louvre copy of this painting to the Maestro Esiguo; point out that the surface is abraded.
Elena Capretti inGiovinezza di Michelangelo. Ed. Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt. Exh. cat., Palazzo Vecchio and Casa Buonarroti. Florence, 1999, pp. 234–35, no. 18, ill. (color), dates it to around 1482, calling it an early work by Piero from the time of his sojourn in Rome; suggests that the dynamism of the line derives from Pollaiuolo and that despite the worn surface, Piero's brushstrokes and short flashes of light are still appreciable; notes that the cross and halo suggest a three-dimensional space and that the unconventionally melancholic gaze of the young John denotes a prophetic awareness; compares John's youthful appearance to Desiderio da Settignano's naturalistic portraits of children.
Lisa Venturini inIn the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece. Ed. Mina Gregori. Exh. cat., Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2003, vol. 1, pp. 289–90, ill., no. IV.11; vol. 2, colorpl. IV.11, dates it to after his trip to Rome in 1481–82; notes the similarity in the strict profile pose of Saint John the Baptist to figures in ancient cameos or engraved gemstones; argues that Piero adopted this format for subjects with strong symbolic content rather than for contemporary portraits.
Dennis Geronimus. Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange. New Haven, 2006, pp. 35–36, 178, 180–81, 326 nn. 42, 43, p. 327 nn. 53, 54, fig. 136 (color).
Edith Gabrielli. Cosimo Rosselli: catalogo ragionato. Turin, 2007, pp. 57, 69 n. 102, p. 204, dates it to the early 1480s, the same period as the artist's altarpiece "Madonna and Child with Saints Lazarus and Sebastian" (Santi Michele e Lorenzo, Montevettolini).
Serena Padovani inThe Alana Collection. Ed. Sonia Chiodo and Serena Padovani. Vol. 3, Italian Paintings from the 14th to 16th Century. Florence, 2014, p. 226.
Virginia Brilliant inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, p. 86.
Gretchen A. Hirschauer inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 94, 96, fig. 2 (color), under no. 1, dates it about 1480–85; relates it to the heads of the two male saints in Piero's "Madonna and Child with Saints Lazarus and Sebastian" (SS. Michele Arcangelo and Lorenzo Martire, Montevettolini) from the same time.
Virginia Brilliant. Unpublished catalogue entry for "Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence". 2015, suggests that although "throughout his career Piero drew on an eclectic range of stylistic idioms," for this painting, "a type so specific to the city of Florence and the familial and devotional culture of its ruling class, Piero chose deliberately to paint in a particularly Florentine manner, using a local style for a decidedly local subject".
Serena Padovani inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, p. 29.
Alessandro Cecchi inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 124, 128–29, fig. 7 (color).
The frame is from southern Spain and dates to about 1580 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This small cassetta or box frame is made of pine and is water gilded and boldly carved and densely ornamented in the Herrera style. (The Spanish architect Juan de Herrera [1530–1597] designed the Escorial for Philip II.) A bead and reel sight edge is within a plate or frieze punctuated with rusticated ornament and acanthus carved corners. On the top edge the raked knulling and cabled fluting ornament emerges from centers and wraps the perimeter much like mannerist armor. Though darkened now the gilding on this frame may have originally been decorated with boldly colored glazes.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
There is a copy after this picture in the Louvre, attributed to the Maestro Esiguo.
Artist: Attributed to Piero di Cosimo (Piero di Lorenzo di Piero d'Antonio) (Italian, Florence 1462–1522 Florence)Date: ca. 1495Medium: Metalpoint, highlighted with white gouache, on blue-gray prepared paperAccession: 1972.118.268On view in:Not on view
Artist: Piero di Cosimo (Piero di Lorenzo di Piero d'Antonio) (Italian, Florence 1462–1522 Florence)Date: ca. 1494–1500Medium: Tempera and oil transferred to MasoniteAccession: 75.7.2On view in:Gallery 603