Mattia Preti (Italian, Neapolitan, 16131699)
Oil on canvas; 68 x 47 3/4 in. (172.7 x 121.3 cm)
Gift of Melissa and Phillip Aronson, 2005 (2005.477)
Saint John the Baptist is shown seated in the wilderness, his skin tanned from his years in the desert, his right hand pointing heavenward, exhorting the viewer to repent. Beside him is a lamb, symbol of Christ, the Lamb of God (agnus dei). The expressive intensity and boldly sculptural conception of the figure link this picture with frescoes Mattia Preti painted in 165152 in the Church of San Biagio in Modena. There are echoes here as well of the most vigorous manner of Domenichino and Guercino; in 165051, Preti painted the apse beneath the vault frescoes by Domenichino in Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome, and he keenly studied Guercino's work when he was in Emilia. Nothing is known of this painting's early provenance. Painted by one of the leading masters of Baroque style, it joins a later picture by Preti already in the Museum's collection, Pilate Washing His Hands (1978.402), painted in 1663, near the beginning of his long sojourn in Malta in 166199.