VERROCCHIO, Andrea del
(b. 1435, Firenze, d. 1488, Venezia)

Beheading of St John the Baptist

Silver, 31 x 42 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

On 27 July 1477 Verrocchio was commissioned by the Guild of the Cloth Refiners, which supervised works at the Florentine Baptistery, to execute a silver relief of the Beheading of St John the Baptist for the silver altar in the Baptistery. He had won the commission in a contest in which Antonio del Pollaiuolo also participated, Verrocchio submitting two models, Pollaiuolo three. Verrocchio was subsequently also assigned the task of casting some of the silver figurines for the altar itself. The relief, which is on the right side of the antependium of the altar, is Verrocchio's only extant work in silver on such a small scale. It is also the only surviving sculptural project that he carried out in two different techniques: low relief for the architectural background and modelling in the round for the human figures.

The famous silver altar of the Baptistery was originated in 1366. The side plates were added between 1477 and 1480.