TANZIO DA VARALLO
(b. ca. 1580, Riale dAlagna, d. ca. 1632, Varallo)
St John the Baptist in the Desert1627-28
Oil on canvas, 159 x 112 cm
The subject of the childhood, or rather the adolescence, of St John the Baptist was treated several times by the artist. The very iconography of the ascetic adolescent preaching penitence in the desert of Judea is particularly well adapted to the style of the artist, both tense and impassioned. Here, St John the Baptist is actually represented in his mission as a harbinger. He points towards the lamb, and gazes heavenwards. With his right hand, he holds the cross, symbol of his sacrifice. The opening onto the landscape on the right is also characteristic of this artist.
The great expressive force of this painting, with its concern for a more immediate realism would seem to approach it to the St Jerome in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.