"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, July 20, 2020

John the Baptist

This painted terra-cotta bust of Saint John the Baptist probably after a model by Desiderio da Settignano.
The popular Florentine subject of the young John the Baptist is here presented in a different conception from that of Antonio Rossellino's delicately beautiful marble bust. The difference is not only in the medium, painted terra cotta, which has retained much original coloring that contributes to an immediate naturalism. The sculptor of this bust also has given it a particular psychological intensity. The face is thinner; the features relatively individualized; and the gaze distant in a way that from some angles suggests inward concentration on his message, from others suggests focus on some faraway listener. The long, richly modeled and differentiated hair is at once elegant in its swirling waves and unruly in its loose wisps, suggesting passionate energy that is reiterated by the cloak sweeping across the chest to twist into a knot at one side. The open mouth implies the saint is already preaching. -- NGA
The c. 1470 bust by Antonio Rossellino is also in the National Gallery of Art.

The Young Saint John the Baptist
c. 1470
by Antonio Rossellino

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