JACOPO del SELLAIO
(b. ca. 1441, Firenze, d. 1493, Firenze)
St John the Baptistc. 1485
Tempera on canvas, 157 x 80 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest
St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, although always portrayed as an ascetic in a hair shirt, was represented in several ways by the city's artists, from the sullen and reserved prophet - as he was usually shown by painters of the Trecento - to the exalted, over-refined figure of Botticelli, which inspired the painter of the present picture. This beardless youth with the gentle poise and sorrowful expression appeared in the role of St John the Baptist in the mid-1480s, in the first place on Botticelli's S. Barnaba altarpiece. There is reason to believe that this figure had become some kind of spiritual symbol in the eyes of the intellectual "elite" of the city, for in the next decade he reappeared over and over again in the paintings of other artists too.
This canvas - earlier attributed to an anonymous follower of Botticelli - once may have been the procession banner of some religious society.