PISANO, Andrea
(active c. 1290-1349 in Pisa)

Naming of the Baptist (panel of the south doors)

Gilt bronze, 45 x 38 cm
Baptistry, Florence

Each door contains 10 scenes in the upper section from the life of St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence to whom the Baptistry is dedicated. In the Naming of the Baptist Elizabeth tenderly holds the swaddled infant Baptist near her cheek, displaying him to his father Zachariah, who intently scribbles the boy's name, communicated to him by an angel, on a tablet which he perches on his wobbly knees. Two women behind Elizabeth snicker at Zachariah's muteness, a divine punishment for his having doubted his wife's pregnancy. In writing out John, the Baptist's God-given name, Zachariah regained his speech. All this is told in the simplest of Giotto-like stage set: a shallow platform for the actors, a chair and platform for Zachariah, and a tidy polygonal roof, neatly snuggled up into the relief's frame on brackets.

Andrea Pisano carefully studied Giotto's frescoes in the Peruzzi Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence, and he reflections of them can be seen in the reliefs for the bronze doors of the Baptistry.