TO JESUS THROUGH JOHN: ‘St. John the Baptist’ by Leonardo Da Vinci (1513 – 1516)

Where the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art’ – Da Vinci

Born in 1452, Leonardo da Vinci (literally of Vinci, a region near Florence, Italy) had an uninhibited search for knowledge. A multifaceted genius and a blue-sky thinker, his interest in architecture, engineering, sculpting, mathematics, science, anatomy, biology, astronomy etc won him the epithet ‘The Renaissance Man’. His absolute thirst for unending knowledge and his infinite ‘why’s’ produced several substantial cross-disciplinary connections that unravelled the science of art and the art of science. Till date, most of his works continue to stir controversies, theories, feuds and fantasies.

One such masterpiece was executed by this creative genius during the final years of his life (1513 – 1516) which also coincided with the metamorphosis of the High Renaissance into Mannerism. Considered to be an exclusive ‘Leonardesque’, the ‘Saint John the Baptist’, reflects Da Vinci’s profound progress in thought and steady stride in skill. An oil painting on walnut wood, the ‘St. John the Baptist’ is currently housed in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France. 

The work depicts the Baptist in solitude as he appears to advance out of the deep shadows that surround him. The reed cross held to his chest and the animal pelts that partially cover his illuminated body iconographically indicate to the Precursor of Christ and the Patron Saint of Florence. His right hand and his forefinger is upraised, hailing to the heavens, a gesture that professes his mission on earth to preach penitence and thus ‘prepare the way’ for the coming of the Messiah.

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