RIBERA, Jusepe de
(b. 1591, Játiva, d. 1652, Napoli)
St John the Baptist in the Desert1644-47
Oil on canvas, 182 x 150 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
The painting is among a group of eight full-length single-figure composition of saints by Ribera that in 1658 were in the Madrid collection of Don Jerónimo de la Torre, a member of the Royal Council and secretary of State of Flanders. The series included four pictures that are now in the Prado - Mary Magdalene, St John the Baptist in the Desert, St Mary of Egipt, and St Bartholomew - and four others, of Sts Onophrius, Paul the Hermit, Agnes, and Sebastian.
Sometime between 1718 and 1772, the four paintings now in the Prado had a strip of canvas about 50 cm wide added to the left or right side, rendering each one almost square in format, presumably for decorative purposes. During the 1990's the added strips were removed, and the paintings were restored to their original dimensions.