Venetian, 1488/1490 - 1576
Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos, c. 1547
oil on canvas
overall: 237.6 x 263 cm (93 9/16 x 103 9/16 in.) framed: 265.5 x 290.9 x 10.7 cm (104 1/2 x 114 1/2 x 4 3/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 7 of 7
In 1544, Titian was commissioned to paint Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos for the new albergo, or board room, of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, one of the oldest and wealthiest religious confraternities in Venice. The large canvas was originally installed as the centerpiece of a decorative painted ceiling ensemble, surrounded by panels representing cherubs, satyrs, female heads, and symbols of the four evangelists.
Secluded on the Greek island of Patmos, Saint John the Evangelist experienced his apocalyptic vision of the second coming of Christ. This painting depicts the moment when he was inspired by God to write the Book of Revelation. Seen from a low vantage point and dramatically silhouetted against the sky, the heroic figure of John is radically foreshortened. With bent knees and upthrust arms, he looks up to witness God, accompanied by angels, bursting through the clouds above his head. The brilliant hues of yellow, blue, and red draw the eye upward through the physical boundaries of the ceiling and into the heavenly realm. The emotional impact of the subject is further intensified by Titian's broad, expressive brushstrokes.
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