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Saint John the Baptist
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
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Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Veneto (Italy), 1490 - Venice (Italy), 1576

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) See author's file

Saint John the Baptist

1550 - 1555. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This work joins the two known compositions on this subject by the artist, one in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice (ca. 1530-1532) and the other in El Escorial (1565-1570). When he produced a painting Titian would generally execute a copy of it to be kept in his studio as a reference point for subsequent commission. This copy was created by tracing, but once the original image had been transferred Titian introduced small changes (to the gestures, landscape and colour) that resulted in a new original. This explains why there are never two identical works by the artist. Titian`s method is clearly evident on the X-radiographs as the images of the replicas always reveal the composition that was their starting point. Thus, the X-radiograph of the latest of the three Baptists (El Escorial) has the composition of the previous one (Museo del Prado) beneath the paint surface, while the Prado version reveals the Accademia composition underneath.

Stylistically, the Prado’s Saint John the Baptist is closer to the Accademia version than to the one in El Escorial. Both the landscape (the best preserved area along with the sky) and the unusual preparation of lead white with added calcium carbonate are found in works by Titian dating between 1550 and 1555. The Prado painting maintains the powerful body of the Baptist seen in the Accademia canvas, which in turn looks to classical and contemporary sculpture, while colour is still subordinate to disegno. Although Titian used a looser brushstroke in the landscape it is not comparable to the very sketchy handling in the El Escorial version. The three paintings constitute three different interpretations of the figure of John the Baptist. The Accademia version shows him as the impassioned preacher who urges the masses to be baptized and convert, by means of gestures inspired by classical rhetoric. In contrast, the Prado’s painting focuses on the previous moment when John ecstatically receives Christ`s call and accepts his will, placing his right hand on his breast. The Escorial canvas is comparable in this sense and emphasises the saint’s spiritual nature by showing him with the gaunt and wasted body of a hermit.

The canvas is recorded in Spain since the sixteenth century and was probably commissioned by Martín de Gurrea y Aragón, 5th Duke of Villahermosa. The canvas is documented between the late 17th and early 19th centuries in the convent of San Pascual Bailón, a religious house founded by the Admiral of Castile. Its influence on Spanish painting was considerable, as numerous surviving copies indicate (Text drawn from the exhibition brochure: Titian. Saint John the Baptist, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2012).


Technical data

Inventory number
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
Saint John the Baptist
1550 - 1555
Height: 195 cm; Width: 127.5 cm
Museo de la Trinidad

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865.

Wethey, Harold E.1902-1984, The paintings of Titian, Phaidon, London, 1969, pp. 145-147.

Maclehose, L. S.; Brown, J., Vasari on technique, Dover Publications, New York, 1980, pp. 236-237.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991, pp. 762, n.761.

García-Frías Checa, C., San Juan Bautista. En: Ferino Pagden, S. Tiziano. La Ultima Cena y San Juan Bautista. Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de el Escorial, Fundación Argentario, Madrid, 1998, pp. 44-45.

Simposium Internacional.1999.Madrid, Tiziano. Tecnicas y Restauraciones. Actas del Simposium Inte, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 1999, pp. 139-151.

Arte Veneta., Arte Veneta, 58, 2001, pp. 23-42.

Gómez Nebreda, María Luisa, Las pinturas del convento franciscano de los Ángeles de Madrid que pasaron al Museo de la Trinidad. Contribución al catálogo del ''Prado Disperso'', Boletin del Museo del Prado, XX, 2002, pp. 50.

Falomir, M, Tiziano, Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2003, pp. 81-82.

Orihuela, M.y Cenalmor, E., El ''Prado disperso''. Obras depositadas en Almería y Jaén. Cantoria. Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 23, 2005, pp. 122.

Álvarez Lopera, J., El museo de la Trinidad. Historia, obras y documentos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 90, 95-96, 100.

Falomir Faus, M., Tiziano. San Juan Bautista, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2012.

Lozano López, J.C, 'Flandes y la pintura en Aragón en los siglos XVI-XVII', Aragón y Flandes. Un encuentro artístico (siglos XV-XVII)., Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 2015, pp. 102-130 [107].

Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Beiheft, 2018/2019, pp. 124-125 nº 46 [or.].

Falomir, Miguel, Las copias de Tiziano en la coleccion real española siglos XVI y XVII, En: Actas del Congreso Las copias de las obras maestras de la pintura en las colecciones de los Austrias y el Museo del Prado. Junio 2017, Madrid, 2021, pp. 64-75 [69].

Other inventories +

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 761.
761. / Sn Juan Bautista en el desierto con una cruz en la mano izq.da y una cinta con una inscripcion y la d.ra sobre el pecho de tamº nat.l y cuerpo entº / autor / alto 1,95 1/2 ancho 1,27 / sin y sin marco y en Id.Id. / Nº 64 / S.R.

Inscriptions +

T 761
Inscribed in blue. Front, lower right corner

Front, lower central area

PIONEROS ROJOS * CANTORIA (ALMERIA) * [Sello circular con inscripción rodeando una insignia formada por una estrella, una hoz y un martillo]
Printmaking. Stretcher, central crossbeam, on the right

[¿Region 64.?]
Inscribed with chalk. Back, Upper central area

Exhibitions +

Tiziano. San Juan Bautista
06.11.2012 - 10.02.2013

Titian. Saint John the Baptist
06.11.2012 - 10.02.2013

Update date: 01-03-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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