THE POINTER: ‘St John the Baptist showing Christ to St. Andrew’ by Ottavio Vannini’

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed ‘Look, here is the lamb of God!’’ (John 1: 35). The opening words of today’s Gospel are rendered breath through the painting in consideration .

Composed in the 17th century by Ottavio Vannini, this work of art decorates the Church  of San Gaetano in Florence. While in the Synoptic Gospels Jesus calls his disciples while they were fishing by the Sea of Galilee, here in the Gospel of John, the disciples themselves follow Christ through the witness of the Baptist. Garbed in camel’s hair, John stands in contrapposto with most of his weight on one foot while the second rests on a rock. Both the camel’s hair and the rock symbolise temperance,endurance and rejection of worldly affairs. His red cloak announces his imminent martyrdom and his holy zeal for the Lord.

Intriguing indeed are his gestures. In his right hand he clutches a bamboo reed indicating his simplicity and humility. While with his left hand, he points out to the Lamb of God. Now this expression bears striking resemblance to the ‘Hand of God’ by Michelangelo. The action absorbs the significance as well. It highlights the ‘transfer’ of attention and the apostles from John the Baptist to Jesus.

John announces not himself but Christ. The declaration of the Lamb of God recalls the Paschal lamb whose blood saved the Israelites from death and paved the way for their deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 12). It also bears witness  to the Lamb provided by God to Abraham in place of the sacrifice of his son Isaac. Finally it brings to mind the Suffering Songs of Isaiah who prophesized the Sacrifice of Jesus and  the salvation of human race. Heeding John’s voice and direction is St. Andrew and an anonymous disciple.

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