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Saint John the Baptist
Valdés Leal, Juan de
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Valdés Leal, Juan de

Sevilla (Spain), 1622 - Sevilla (Spain), 1690

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Saint John the Baptist

1659 - 1660. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Saint John is presented in the foreground as a young man playing with a lamb -one of his identifying attributes as well as a reference to the Agnus Dei, which is how the Baptist referred to Christ. This reference to the Lamb of God is double, as it is repeated on the ribbon wrapped around the crosspiece of his crook. In the background, the saint appears again, standing on a boulder and preaching to a crowd. Valdés Leal took significant risks in this composition and he resolved them masterfully. He presents Saint John in a highly foreshortened posture very close to the viewer, and he contrasts his figure with the dark boulders behind him. All of this makes the Baptist’s presence very immediate, so that he dominates the composition, imbuing it with all of the dynamism of his body. In his depiction of that boy, Valdés Leal plays with the possibilities offered by alternating nude and dressed parts of his body, combining them to convey a very realistic sense of volume and space that reflects his considerable mastery of anatomy and drawing. And his mastery of color and light is equally impressive, as the alternation of light and shadows is what shapes the saint’s head, trunk, arm and leg. Equally interesting in this work is Valdés Leal’s skillful handling of different degrees of completion, which he administers according to his compositions’ narrative requirements. Here, for example, he models the main figure in a very clear and careful fashion, while rendering the groups of figures in the background and the plant life in the middle ground in a more summary way that reflects their secondary role in the overall composition. This work indicates the direction Andalusian painting was taking in the central decades of the 17th century.

Technical data

Inventory number
Valdés Leal, Juan de
Saint John the Baptist
1659 - 1660
Height: 178 cm; Width: 121.5 cm
Stanley Moss & Co., Nueva York; Collection of Plácido Arango Arias; Bequest of Plácido Arango Arias, 2015.

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, A. E. en: Vallaure, M. (ed.), Una mirada singular. Pintura española de los siglos XVI al XIX, Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, Oviedo, 2006, pp. 15.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Plácido Arango Arias. Donación de 25 obras maestras de su colección de arte antiguo al Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. n. 15.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Juan de Valdés Leal. San Juan Bautista, En: Donación de Plácido Arango Arias al Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 42-43 n.12.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de actividades 2015, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 58-59.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2906.

Update date: 13-01-2022 | Registry created on 24-08-2015

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