Saint John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist
Pietro Lorenzetti (Italian, active c. 1306-1348?)
1319 - 1339  
Tempera and gold leaf on panel (one of a pair) 
49-3/4 x 18-3/8 in. (126.4 x 46.7 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

This panel and that of the Prophet Elisha are fragments of a major altarpiece that belonged to the Carmelite church of San Niccolò del Carmine, Siena. Above is a photographic reconstruction of the original polytych. This beautiful altarpiece functioned as a manifesto of the Carmelite Order. It narrated their origin and unbroken authority from the Old Testament Prophet Elijah who stands near the Virgin, to his successor Elisha, to then fourteenth century Siena. Elisha, the prophet’s successor and founder of the Carmelites stands to the left, and John the Baptist who like Elijah also prophesized the coming of the Messiah, stands to the right, pointing to the important figures in the main panel.

To accomplish this ambitious pictorial program, the Order commissioned Pietro Lorenzetti, a Sienese artist of great skill and imagination: note his keen observations with regard to portraying the aged Elisha and weathered skin and camel hair garment of the Baptist. Each figure stands solidly within the clearly implied space of an architectural niche. The artist’s well-conceived palette is evident in the striking use of red for the Baptist’s cloak and the myriad shades of white in Elisha’s cope. Full length, calm and dignified, these figures form compelling and immediate images.


Presumably from a polyptych commissioned by the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Siena.
Jerome “Bonaparte” Wheat (1809-1895), Branford, Connecticut, by descent to;
Blanche Wheat Bauer (d. 1938, Wheat’s daughter), Branford, Connecticut, by descent ca. 1946 to;
Jocelyn Helen Bauer Baldwin (1909-1985, Wheat’s granddaughter), Branford, Connecticut; sold 24 March 1972 for $16,250 to;
[Newhouse Galleries, New York; stock no.18532A/B; in partnership with Bruno Meissner (4 May 1972; 2 share), Frederick Mont (August 1972; 1/4 share), and Piccolo; sold by Frederick Mont, Inc., New York, 5 March 1973 to;]
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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