National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Young Saint John the Baptist Antonio Rossellino (artist)
Florentine, 1427 - 1479
The Young Saint John the Baptist, c. 1470
marble
overall: 34.7 x 29.8 x 16.1 cm (13 11/16 x 11 3/4 x 6 5/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1943.4.79
On View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 4 of 8

Like Desiderio, Antonio Rossellino probably came from Settignano. He was the most accomplished sculptor among five brothers, all trained in the important workshop led by the eldest brother Bernardo. Widespread admiration for Antonio's skill may explain why his nickname Rossellino, "little redhead," came to be attached to all his brothers, replacing the family name Gambarelli.

John the Baptist, portrayed by Antonio in this graceful bust, was a patron saint of the city of Florence and a favorite figure in Florentine painting and sculpture, where legends were cherished of his youth and he was often represented as a child or (as here) as near to adolescence. His richly waving curls and the fine curving lines of his lips suggest the beauty of a young classical god. The Florentine theologian, Cardinal Giovanni Dominici, recommended around 1410 that parents display images of the Christ Child and the young John together in their homes, as religious and moral examples for their children. When it was first made, this bust may have served just such a purpose in a Florentine home. But for at least the 180 years before 1940, it was in a Florentine religious building, the Oratory of San Francesco of the Vanchettoni, together with Desiderio da Settignano's bust of the Christ Child. The Desiderio boy is considerably younger, with plump cheeks and silky hair.

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