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. 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, now exhibited in the same gallery. The Desiderio boy is considerably younger, with plump cheeks and silky hair; Rossellino's John is close to adolescence. His richly waving curls and the fine curving lines of his lips suggest the beauty of a young classical god.
Oratory of S. Francesco dei Vanchettoni, Florence, before 1756; sold 1940 to Eugenio Venturi, Florence, probably for (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 1942 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.
- Italian Renaissance Sculpture in the Time of Donatello, Detroit Institute of Arts; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; Forte Belvedere, Florence, Italy, 1985-1986, no. 56 (English cat.), no. 93 (Italian cat.), repro.
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- Fulton, Christopher. "The Boy Stripped Bare by His Elders: Art and Adolescence in Renaissance Florence." Art Journal 56, 2 (Summer 1997): 32, fig. 2.
- National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000:59.
- Pisani, Linda. "San Giovannino Battista nei busti del Rinascimento Florentino." In Jeanette Kohl and Rebecca Müller, eds. Kopf/Bild: Die Büste in Mittelalter und Frïher Neuzeit. (I Mandorli 6) Munich and Berlin, 2007: 221, 231, no. 7.
- Langhanke, Birgit. Die Madonnenreliefs im Werk von Antonio Rossellino. Ph.D. diss. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, 2013: 99, n. 80.