St. John in the desert | Domenico Veneziano | 1450

St. John in the desert | Domenico Veneziano | 1450

St. John in the desert | Domenico Veneziano | 1450

It seems that we don’t know much about the artist. And what we do know is always a matter of bitter arguments.

Whether by birth or by descendant, Domenico came from Venice, fact that it is shameful to clarify for obvious reasons. The artist, however, built his career in Florence, place where he met several artists we already worked in the blog: he was a pupil from Gentile da Fabriano, contemporist and friend of Fra Angelico; and teacher of Piero della Francesca.

According to the bible, little John lived in the desert “strengthening and growing in spirit until he presented himself to Israel” and was known as John the Baptist. According of what I read, “desert”, in that time, referred only to a location which it wasn’t sowed but had flora and fauna. But this is just anecdotic.  

Let’s see the work. The title itself is already contradictory: John wasn’t a saint until he died and was canonized. So this person that appears in the desert is neither John the baptist nor St. John; it is just John.

The vision of John here is unusual. Generally he is represented as an old, beardy man, but here we see a young John, leaving his fine clothes and only covered with a rustic cloak. This generally is interpreted as a symbol of abandoning the earthly life to pursuit a spiritual one.

The body of the young is portrayed as he was a statue, which indicates the concern for the renaissance artists for the aesthetic of ancient Greece and Rome. In the background, we see pointy mountains with a texture like marble; and dense bushes with thorns; metaphor of the tribulations that endures a saint.

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on December 6, 2010.

2 Responses to “St. John in the desert | Domenico Veneziano | 1450”

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