Saint John the Evangelist

Saint John the Evangelist
1454–69
Oil and tempera with traces of gold on poplar panel
52 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. (134 x 62.2 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York

Beloved by Christ, the youthful John was present at the Crucifixion. Here Piero depicts the Apostle in old age, reflecting on his Gospel or the Book of Revelation. Both Saint John and Saint Augustine occupied the main tier of the Sant’Agostino altarpiece, which also included Saints Michael and Nicholas of Tolentino. All four stood before a balustrade against a blue sky, flanking a central image (now lost). Piero invested each saint with iconic presence, and his attention to detail is meaningful: along the hem of John’s robe, light catches a border of pearls, rubies, and aquamarines, the kind of gems he created miraculously from pebbles.