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Icon St John the Baptist

Object number



Unknown artist


Egg tempera


Tempera on panel
Painting and Painting Techniques


Height: 515mm
Width: 360mm
Depth (frame): 35mm
Depth: 25mm


Burlington House -

Content description

The winged figure of John the Baptist is shown full-length in the Society’s icon, facing the viewer, against a gold background with a lower register of dark green. In his left hand he holds a slender cross-shaft, as well as an unfurled and inscribed scroll. He is draped in an olive-coloured himation, beneath which is the camel-hair tunic described in the gospels (Mark 1: 6; Matt 3: 4).


Inscription content

'St John the Forerunner'

Inscriber role/association


Inscription content

‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’, the words of John the Baptist (Matt 3:2) and of Jesus (Matt 4:17)

Inscriber role/association

    Egg tempura and gold leaf on canvas painting depicting St John the Baptist. The figure is shown in full length and winged, holding an open scroll and narrow cross shaft in his left hand. Red painted Greek uncials level with the saint's head identify him as St John the Forerunner.
    This Cretan icon of St John the Baptist was given in 1938 as a seventeenth-century work but is now thought to date from the sixteenth century. The same donor, Gordon McNeil Rushforth, former Director of the British School at Rome, gave the most outstanding religious painting in the Society’s possession, Simone dei Crocifissi’s fourteenth-century Dream of the Virgin LDSAL1305 (see related object link).

    The painting has been identified as Cretan on both iconographic and stylistic grounds. The presence of areas of lighter tone on the face of the saint suggests the revised date in the second half of sixteenth century given here for the Society’s panel, since the use of paler skin tones was introduced into post-Byzantine painting at that time by the Cretan artist, Michael Damaskinos (c. 1535-92/3). The Cretan school of post-Byzantine painting flourished from the second half of the fifteenth century, after the Turkish seizure of Constantinople led to an influx of artists to Crete, then ruled by the Venetian Republic.