This panel combines two episodes: the birth of Saint John the Baptist and his naming by his father, Zacharias, portrayed writing in the foreground. Behind him, framed by delicate colonnettes, is Elizabeth, the cousin of the Virgin Mary, who reclines in bed, having just given birth to Saint John. Although the original location of the present painting is unknown, and it cannot be associated with any other known panels, it is likely that it formed part of a predella that portrayed scenes of the Life of Saint John the Baptist. Sano di Pietro’s panel was inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco depicting the Birth of the Virgin (façade of the Spedale della Scala).
Earl of Ashburnham; Frank Channing Smith Jr., Worcester, MA, by 1925; M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1952; Julius Weitzner, 1954. Acquired by Robert Lehman before 1959.
Émile Gaillard. Un peintre siennois au XVe siècle: Sano di Pietro, 1406–1481. Chambéry, 1923, p. 204.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 9, The Hague, 1929, p. 530.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 505.
Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà. "Early Italian Paintings in the Collection of Frank Channing Smith, Jr." Worcester Art Museum Journal , 3 (1937–1938), pp. 38-39, 41, no. 22.
"Paintings, Drawings, Prints, from private collections in New England; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, June 9 to September 10, 1939." Art in New England. Exh. cat., Cambridge, MA, 1939, pp. 79-80, no. 120.
The Lehman Collection. Exh. cat., Cincinnati, 1959, p. 16, no. 46.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. Vol. 1, London, 1968, p. 377.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by artists born in or before 1865: A summary catalogue. Vol. 1, New York, 1980, p. 167.
John Pope-Hennessy assisted by Laurence B. Kanter inThe Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. New York, 1987, pp. 142-143, no. 59.
Keith Christiansen inPainting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, p. 152.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 56.