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Core Record

Title St John the Baptist Leaving for the Desert
Collection Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Artist Neri di Bicci (Italian painter, 1418-1492)
Date Earliest about 1470
Date Latest about 1475

Saint John, dressed in camel skins, takes leave of his parents outside the walls of Jerusalem. He journeys to begin his life as a preacher in the desert, which would culminate in his baptism of Christ.

The panel formed part of the predella, or lower part, of an altarpiece of the Annunciation. The balustrades to either side frame the scene and linked it to four other panels. The altarpiece was commissioned by a wealthy Florentine woolworker and the inclusion of Saint John reflects his role as the patron saint of the city. Neri di Bicci also used Florence as the model for Jerusalem.

Current Accession Number 50.5
Subject religion (St John)
Measurements 23.8 x 37.8 cm
Material tempera on panel (hardwood {poplar})
Acquisition Details Purchased at the Henry Harris sale, Sotheby's 1950 for 90.
Provenance Henry Harris sale, Sotheby's London, 1950.
Publications Parronchi, A., Arte antica e modern, 1965, p. 169 ff; Prakken, H. W. van Os and M., The Florentine paintings in Holland 1300-1500, Maarssen, 1974, pp. 92-3; Thomas, A., 'Neri di Bicci's Young St John the Baptist going into the desert: A predella re-connected to its panel', Apollo, May 1996, vol. 143, pp. 3-7, ill. p.3.
Notes Thomas, in The Burlington Magazine, (1996), suggests a date of late 1460s or early 1470s and reveals that documentary evidence in the form of a ricordanza dates the work at 29 July 1470 (Santi, B., Le Ricordanze, Pisa, 1976, no. 662, p. 352). In this entry Neri di Bicci records that he has received a commission to paint an altarpiece of The Annunciation for the woolworker Domenico di Givanni Bartoli; Thomas suggests that the Barber Institute's work may have belonged to that piece (Thomas, p. 4).
Rights Owner The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham
Author Dr Nicola Gauld/Barber Institute



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