Saint John the Baptist Bearing Witness, ca. 1600–1602
Annibale Carracci (Italian, 1560–1609)
Oil on copper; 21 3/8 x 17 1/8 in. (54.3 x 43.5 cm)
Gift of Fabrizio Moretti and Adam Williams, in honor of Everett Fahy, 2009 (2009.252)
Together with Caravaggio and Rubens, Annibale Carracci was one of the creative geniuses of Baroque painting. In addition to his achievements as a painter of fresco cycles and altarpieces, he launched the vogue for carefully constructed landscapes in which nature is transformed by the imagination into an idyllic setting for biblical or mythological stories. The subject of this one is based on John 1:29: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."
This beautifully preserved work was described by Annibale's biographer, Malvasia, in 1678, when it was in the famous Farnese collection in Parma. It seems to date to about 1600–1602, when Annibale was fascinated by Roman sculpture, as is evident in the figure of Saint John the Baptist. Annibale sometimes employed assistants to realize his ideas, and some scholars have suggested that this picture was painted by Francesco Albani, who assumed a dominant role in Annibale's workshop after about 1604 and who later painted versions of the theme. None of Albani's paintings, however, attains the quality of this one.