Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ

painting of man praying over the scene of the baptism of Christ

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ, mid-1550s 
Oil on canvas 
41 x 44 1/2 in. (104 x 113 cm)
Etro Collection

 

As in Moroni’s two other surviving sacred portraits, (Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, and Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael) the unidentified sitter appears to have been studied from life while the sacred scene beyond him is stylized. Why the sitter chose to be associated with St. John the Baptist is unknown; the saint may have been his namesake (“Giovanni Battista”). The figures of Christ and the Baptist, whose attenuated limbs hold affected poses, reappear almost exactly in an altarpiece painted by Moroni a few years later. The young man’s openwork collar and cuffs have been meticulously rendered. Like the collar and cuffs in Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, they may have been made with the aid of a pattern book like those by Matteo Pagano, (see examples of embroidery, and openwork) which encouraged women to produce needlework as both a fashionable and virtuous pursuit.