SEBASTIANO DEL PIOMBO
(b. 1485, Venezia, d. 1547, Roma)
San Giovanni Crisostomo Altarpiece1510-11
Oil on canvas, 200 x 156 cm
San Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice
This altarpiece depicts St John Chrysostom with Sts Catherine, Magdalen, Lucy, John the Evangelist, John the Baptist and Theodore. It is a painting with an official, doctrinal message, based on the association of the three Johns. Chrysostom is sitting side on, not in compliance with any mannerist idiosyncrasy but simply to enable us to see and read the book of his golden Word.
The altarpiece has at the centre an old man reading, oblivious of the saints around him. It is a tightly knit and crowded group, the slightly yearning figure of St John the Baptist on the right looking inwards is balanced by a trio of grandly assured, superb Venetian beauties looking forwards and outwards at the spectator. The figures are in an architectural setting.
This altarpiece is the major work of Sebastiano executed in Venice before he removed to Rome permanently in 1511.