(b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494, Firenze)

Preaching of St John the Baptist

Fresco, width 450 cm
Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

On the third level there are two frescoes, side by side, that deal with the mission of Saint John the Baptist. In the picture on the right he is preaching, and in the next picture he is baptizing Christ. The same landscape is continued through both scenes, linking them to one another.

The fifth scene of the cycle depicts the Preaching of St John the Baptist. "The fifth contains the preaching to the multitudes showing the attention of the people in hearing new things..." (Vasari).

While St John in a fur robe is making didactic gestures and preaching about the coming of the Messiah to an intent group of listeners, Christ is already approaching. Unnoticed by the Baptist, who is pointing to his cross staff, Christ is stepping out of the background into the scene between the rocks.

Worthy of note in the preaching scene, and typical of Ghirlandaio, is the group of women on the left, with a beautiful figure seen from behind. Another figure seen from behind is seated at the feet of the preaching Saint John. The naked sitting child is Ghirlandaio's quotation of classical sculpture.