John the Baptist (Caravaggio)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

John the Baptist (sometimes called John in the Wilderness) was the subject of at least eight paintings by the Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610).

John the Baptist is told in the Gospels. John was the cousin of Jesus, and his calling was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. He lived in the wilderness of Judea between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, "his raiment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." He baptised Jesus in the Jordan, and was eventually killed by Herod Antipas when he called upon the king to reform his evil ways. John was frequently shown in Christian art, identifiable by his bowl, reed cross, camel's skin and lamb. The most popular scene prior to the Counter-Reformation was of John's baptism of Jesus, or else the infant Baptist together with the infant Jesus and Mary his mother, frequently supplemented by the Baptist's own mother St Elizabeth. John alone in the desert was less popular, but not unknown. For the young Caravaggio, John was invariably a boy or youth alone in the wilderness. This image was based on the statement in the Gospel of Luke that "the child grew and was strengthened in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel." These works allowed a religious treatment of the partly-clothed youths he liked to paint at this period - not all the models have a very saintly look.

Apart from these works showing John alone, mostly dated to his early years, Caravaggio painted three great narrative scenes of John's death - the great Execution in Malta, and two sombre Salomes with his head, one in Madrid, and one in London.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "John the Baptist (Caravaggio)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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