Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo Da Ponte), St. John the Baptist in the Desert

Oil on canvas
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, Italy

The saint is pictured in an ecstasy of contemplation, transfixed by the divine light from above. A similar device in images of other eremitical saints would have them contemplating the cross, which of course would be an anachronism here.

The divine light appears to be distinct from the natural light that illuminates the saint's body. This may be intended as a comment on spiritual versus physical illumination, or it may simply be that the natural light gives Bassano the opportunity to exhibit, as he so often does, his skill at representing human anatomy. Apparently it was the latter motive that led the artist to ignore the convention of picturing John in a tunic of camel's skin.

The lamb in the foreground refers to John's exclamation at Jesus' visit, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

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Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.