The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist

The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist

1496–99

Juan de Flandes

(Netherlandish, c. 1460-1519)

Oil on wood

Framed: 99 x 60 x 7.5 cm (39 x 23 5/8 x 2 15/16 in.); Unframed: 88.4 x 49.9 cm (34 13/16 x 19 5/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1975.3

Fun Fact

Flemish artists are famed for their attention to minute detail. Here the artist paints a domestic setting from his own time period, complete with details like a brazier for heating in the lower right corner and concave mirror above the bed.

Description

This painting was once a panel from the important five-panel altarpiece commissioned by Queen Isabella for the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores near Burgos, site of the royal tombs of her parents and brother. The altarpiece, of which the other panels survive, was likely painted during the artist’s early employment at the royal court. Typical of Flemish art of the period with its love of naturalistic detail and almost photographic depiction of a domestic interior, this scene suggests a comfortable burgher’s home in 15th-century Ghent or Bruges in which the artist transforms a contemporary setting to frame the story of the birth of John the Baptist. Having just given birth, Elizabeth lies in bed. Nearby, her cousin, the Virgin Mary, presents the newly born child to his elderly father, Zacharias. Having lost his ability to speak when he doubted an angel’s prophecy of the child’s birth, Zacharias writes the chosen name for his son. At this moment, his speech is restored.

Video

Queen Isabella and the Arts
Queen Isabella and the Arts
The Painting
The Painting
See also
Collection: 
MED - Renaissance
Department: 
Medieval Art
Type of artwork: 
Painting
Medium: 
Oil on wood

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