St John the Almsgiver (1549 – 1550) by Titian

St John the Almsgiver - Titian - 1549 - 1550

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Artwork Information

TitleSt John the Almsgiver
Date1549 - 1550
Dimensions264 x 148 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)

About St John the Almsgiver

The artwork “St John the Almsgiver” was created by the renowned artist Titian between 1549 and 1550. This religious painting is executed in oil on canvas and measures 264 by 148 centimeters. It belongs to the Mannerism period, which is often described as Late Renaissance, indicating an era where artists experimented with form, composition, and the emotional expressivity of figures beyond the naturalistic constraints adhered to during the High Renaissance.

“St John the Almsgiver” captures a charitable moment inspired by the life of Saint John the Almsgiver, also known as Saint John the Merciful, who was a patriarch of Alexandria. In the artwork, Saint John is depicted as an elderly, bearded figure clad in opulent robes with a rich, deep red cape draped over his shoulders and a white garment that reflects his purity of spirit. His compassionate gaze is directed towards a poor man at his feet who is depicted as a humble, almost destitute figure. This man kneels, bare, looking up to Saint John, who extends his hand in a gesture of giving. The contrasts between the richness of Saint John’s attire and the poverty of the kneeling man underscore the themes of benevolence and humility.

A crucifix staff, symbolizing Saint John’s religious stature and faith, stands resolute beside him while a young assistant, partially in shadow, observes the act of charity. The scene is set against a muted background, focusing the viewer’s attention on the stark humanity and the central act of faith-driven generosity. The treatment of light, the sophisticated use of color, and the enveloping drapery all are characteristic of Titian’s masterly technique and serve to convey the narrative with a profound emotional gravity that was indicative of the Mannerist approach to religious subjects.

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