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Past Exhibition

Composition Study for the Birth of St. John the Baptist

Drawing of a scene of the birth of St. John the Baptist in a bedroom

Composition Study for the Birth of St. John the Baptist, ca. 1526
Red chalk
6 7/16 x 8 11/16 in. (16.4 x 22.1 cm)
The British Museum; bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane, 1753
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Centered on the nurse presenting the newborn to his mother, this drawing prepares a scene in Andrea's fresco cycle of the life of the Baptist in the Chiostro dello Scalzo, Florence. The only surviving compositional study from this important commission, it experiments with depicting the moment when the father, Zacharias (at right), struck mute from disbelief at the prophecy of John's birth, miraculously regains his voice after writing, "His name is John" on a tablet. Andrea sketches the figures nude, a standard Renaissance convention, providing faint outlines of the drapery in which the painted figures will be clothed.