SOLIMENA, Francesco
(b. 1657, Canale di Serino, d. 1747, Barra)

St John the Baptist

Oil on canvas, 83 x 70 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

In the traditional iconography, John the Baptist is represented as a bearded ascetic, rudely dressed in a camel skin and crusted with dirt from the wilderness. Solimena, by contrast, has portrayed him as a handsome young man, clean shaven and well-muscled. The secure the identity, the painter includes the baptist's traditional symbols of a reed cane with a cross at the top, and, in his left hand, a banderole inscribed "Ec. Ag. Dei" (Ecce Agnus Dei), "Behold the Lamb of God." The head of a lamb is glimpsed in the shadow.

This painting is an example of Solimena's art at the peak of his maturity in the 1720s.