Leonardo da Vinci Saint John the Baptist


Leonardo da Vinci Paintings, saint john the baptist (leonardo), saint john the baptist leonardo

Saint John the Baptist (click for large image)

Title: Saint John the Baptist

Year: c. 1513-1516

Size: 69 x 57 cm

Medium: Oil on wood

Location: Louvre Museum, Paris, France








The Saint John the Baptist is an oil painting on walnut wood, it is housed in the Louvre in Paris. Between 1513 and 1516, it was most likely completed. The piece uses chiaroscuro to represent the figure of John the Baptist in isolation, with the figure appearing to emerge from the murky background.

The saint is clad in furs, has long curly hair, and smiles enigmatically, similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa. He holds a reed cross in his left hand, while his right-hand gestures up toward heaven, as in Leonardo’s Burlington House Cartoon’s Saint Anne.


History of the Saint John the Baptist

Leonardo da Vinci commanded the canvas and the brush in this painting as if they were made just for him. One renowned artwork done later in his life is St. John the Baptist. This is due in part to the fact that he completed this painting during his final years on Earth, between 1513 and 1519. Kenneth Clark argued that Saint John represented “the perpetual question mark, the enigma of creation” for Leonardo, and he underlined the painting’s “uneasiness.”

Describing Saint John coming from the darkness in almost startlingly near relation to the spectator, Leonardo emphasizes the very ambiguity between spirit and flesh. Leonardo’s figure’s grace, despite its shockingly sensual charge, has a spiritual connotation to which Saint John refers when he speaks of God’s fullness of grace.

The painting of Saint John the Baptist was added to King Francis I’s collection at Fontainebleau, after da Vinci’s death. In 1625, King Charles I of England swapped “John the Baptist” Louis XIII inviting the French monarch the “Holy family” and Titian’s “Portrait Of Erasmus Of Rotterdam Holbein. In 1649, a Charles collection was auctioned, and Leonardo ended up in the hands of a German banker named Eberhard Abacha. In 1661, “John the Baptist” returned to France, this time under the tutelage of the country’s ruler, Louis XIV. Following the revolution, the picture was moved to the Louvre, where it remains to this day.


Why is John the Baptist important?

St. John’s gesture toward the skies suggests the significance of salvation through baptism, which John the Baptist portrays. Later painters, particularly those of the late Renaissance and Mannerism schools, frequently reference the work. Incorporating a gesture akin to John’s would emphasize the significance of work with a religious pretension.

Leonardo Da Vinci attempted to represent the spirit of St. John the Baptist as described in the Gospel books of the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in his painting. The saint is represented as a man of the jungle or a man of the desert. He is supposed to have eaten locusts and drank wild honey.

He donned camel skin and preached the Gospel to anybody who would listen, paving the way for the Messiah.

Leonardo da Vinci possessed only three of his graphic works when he died in 1519. And the artist was unable to complete all three works – “Madonna with Child and St. Anna,” “La Gioconda,” and “Saint John The Baptist.” Leonardo continued to work on them, adding detail and perfecting a smoky sfumato look with new and new thin layers of paint. Most critics believe the painting “Saint John the Baptist,” considered da Vinci’s final work, to be the peak of the artist’s skill in this method.


Was John the Baptist Jesus cousin?

In the Gospel of Luke, John is a relative of Jesus whose birth was predicted by Gabriel. John the Baptist himself saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove in the Gospel of John and explicitly proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God.