One of Domenico Veneziano's major works is an altarpiece that he painted about 1445 for the Church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli, in Florence. The incident illustrated in this small panel from the base of the altarpiece is John's act of exchanging his rich, worldly clothes for a rough, camel–hair coat. In the few known representations of John in the wilderness that preceded Domenico's version, the emphasis was placed either on the divine origin of the saint's animal skin or on his preaching. Domenico, however, shifted attention from mere narration to the spiritual significance of John's decision to forsake luxury in favor of a life of piety.
Rather than showing the saint in the usual manner, as a mature, bearded hermit, Domenico painted a youthful figure. Clearly classical in appearance, his saint is one of the earliest embodiments of the Renaissance preoccupation with antique models. However, a fusion of pagan and Christian ideas is suggested; the Grecian type is transformed into a religious being by the golden halo above his head. Another innovative combination of elements exists in the arrangement of this male nude in a landscape that retains artistic features from the High Gothic era of the late Middle Ages. Symbolic rather than realistic, the rugged mountains enliven the drama of John's decision by emphasizing the desolate nature of his chosen environment.
Marks and Labels
Main altar of the church of Santa Lucia de' Magnoli, Florence, probably until the early 18th century. Sacristy of the same church, by 1728. Third altar on the right of the nave of the same church, by 1762 and probably until the early 1800s. Bernard Berenson [1865-1959], Settignano, acquired, perhaps in London, by July 1913; presented 1919 by his wife, Mary Berenson, to Carl W. Hamilton [1886-1967], New York; sold 1942 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.
- Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Furniture and Art Objects from the Collection of Carl W. Hamilton, Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, 1925-1926, no. 64.
- Exhibition of Italian Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1930, no. 132 (no. 112 and pl. XLII in commemorative catalogue published 1931; not in souvenir catalogue).
- Exhibition of Italian Paintings of the Renaissance, The Century Association, New York, 1935, no. 6.
- Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 715.
- Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, no. 40, repro.
- Pittura di luce. Giovanni di Francesco e l'arte fiorentina di metà Quattrocento, Casa Buonarroti, Florence, 1990, no. 7, repro.
- Una scuola per Piero. Luce, colore e prospettiva nella formazione fiorentina di Piero della Francesca, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, 1992-1993, no. 11c, repro.
- From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnavale and the Making of a Renaissance Master, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004-2005, no. 22A, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 24, color repro.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 27, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 28, repro.
- Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 39-41, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 59, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Early Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Three in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 28, color repro.
- The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 10, as St. John in the Wilderness.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 34-35, color repro. pl. 28
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 78, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 42.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:34, color repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 103-104, fig. 280.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 35, repro.
- Pesenti, Franco Renzo. "Dismembered works of art - Italian painting." In An Illustrated Inventory of Famous Dismembered Works of Art: European Painting. Paris, 1974: 22, 36-37, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 108, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:159-162, II:pl. 114
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 22, pl.7.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 88, no. 47, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 131, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 16, repro.
- Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 241-250, color repro.
- Gregori, Mina, ed. In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece. Exh. cat. National Gallery and Alexandros Souzos Museum, Athens, 2003-2004: 185, fig. 4.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 22-23, no. 16, color repro.
- "Vasari and the National Gallery of Art." National Gallery of Art Bulletin 48 (Spring 2013): 6, repro.