St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist is an oil painting produced between 1513 and 1516 by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

When the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be the final painting of Leonardo da Vinci as he died in 1519.

The painting dimensions are 69 cm × 57 cm. The canvas depicts St. John the Baptist in isolation. Leonardo used chiaroscuro through which the figure of St. John appears to emerge from the shadowy background. St. John has long curly hair and dressed in pelts and is smiling in the same manner as Leonardo’s famous work painting Mona Lisa. St. John holds a red cross in left hand while his right hand points like St Anne in Leonardo’s Burlington House Cartoon, pointing upward towards the heaven. In this painting, Leonardo used sfumato which conveys the religious content of the picture and how gentle shadows induce subject skin.

The work can be viewed at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France.

Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Musee du Louvre, Paris
Medium: oil on walnut wood
Category: Tags: ,


St. John the Baptist is an oil painting produced between 1513 and 1516 by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Many people are critical of Leonardo’s work. Several critics found St. John the Baptist portrait to be disturbing as representation of the character normally portrayed as gaunt and fiery. St. John seems almost to be a hermaphrodite and many people thought that the painting shows womanish arm bent across his breast and also including the smile. The finger raised towards heaven denotes the coming of Christ.

The complete production date of St. John the Baptist canvas was disputed. Antonio de Beatis see da Vinci diary entry giving a terminus ante quem of 17 October 1517. It was seen by Beatis in Leonardo’s workshop at Clos Luce. This was the last known major work from Leonardo’s own hand. Leonardo’s own sfumato technique was considered to have reached its apogee. However, some experts have compared the hand of St. John in this picture to a similar work in the Codex Atlanticus.

Ready to ignite your passion for art?

Join us! We're on a novel mission to provide you with inspiring and interesting stories on art and culture. Get our latest articles delivered to your inbox

Thank you. You will now receive a confirmation email requesting your approval to complete the subscription. Keep reading!