Saint John the Baptist

Artist: Juan Martínez Montañés (Spanish, Alcalá la Real 1568–1649 Seville)

Date: ca. 1620–30

Culture: Spanish, Seville

Medium: Polychromed wood with gilding

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): H. 60 5/8 x W. 29 5/8 x D. 27 5/8 in. (154 x 75.2 x 70.2 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1963

Accession Number: 63.40


Montañés was a native of Seville, where he was known as El Dios de la Madera for his many retables which populate the churches with magnificently polychromed wood figures. This figure, which dates from about 1625–35, came from the convent of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. It has for its compositional precedent Montañés's own Baptist of the main altar in San Isidoro del Campo at Santiponce, made between 1609 and 1613. The Museum's Baptist is, however, a fuller and more emotionally charged figure. In fact, it has been called Montañés's most beautiful single figure. Its austere expression, solid corporeality, and sharp colors give a disquietingly urgent impression of actuality and conviction.