St. John the Baptist (1597-1603) by El Greco

St. John the Baptist - El Greco - c.1600

Artwork Information

TitleSt. John the Baptist
ArtistEl Greco
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions111 x 66 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationFine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, US
Location Created Spain

About St. John the Baptist

The artwork “St. John the Baptist” is a religious painting by the artist El Greco, dating to around 1600. This oil on canvas masterpiece is a testament to the Mannerism art movement, particularly notable during the Late Renaissance. The physical dimensions of the artwork are 111 x 66 cm. Created in Spain, the painting is currently housed at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in California, United States.

El Greco’s “St. John the Baptist” captures the ascetic figure of the saint in a moment of serene contemplation. The artwork prominently features St. John standing, his body rendered with elongated proportions and sinuous lines characteristic of Mannerist aesthetics. He is depicted nearly nude save for a draped animal pelt around his lower body, emphasizing his traditional role as a hermit living in the wilderness. His right hand points towards his chest, a gesture symbolic of his prophetic role and inward devotion.

The color palette is moody, consisting of dark earth tones and a dynamic backdrop of turbulent skies that project a dramatic atmosphere. This palette contrasts with the paleness of the saint’s skin, thereby drawing the viewer’s attention to his gaunt and spiritual demeanor. The saint’s facial expression is reflective and imbued with a sense of divine inspiration, as he gazes upwards, possibly signifying a connection to the divine.

To the right of St. John stands a tall, simple cross, a symbol of his connection to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. A scroll emblazoned with the words “ECCE AGNUS DEI” (Behold the Lamb of God) is attached to the cross, further underlining St. John’s role in heralding the arrival of Jesus. A lamb, which represents Christ and his sacrifice, rests on a rock in the foreground, completing the symbolic narrative contained within the painting. El Greco’s distinctive style, with its expressive use of form and brushwork, lends the artwork a dramatic and emotionally charged ambiance that is both haunting and spiritually poignant.

Other Artwork from El Greco

More Mannerism (Late Renaissance) Artwork

Scroll to Top