Ambrogio di Baldese, St. John Drinks the Poison Cup

Circa 1390-95
Tempera and gold on wood panel
Pincoteca Vaticana, Rome

From a predella with scenes from the life of St. John the Evangelist. The pagan priest Aristodemus, perhaps the man on the far right, has offered to convert if John will drink a cup of poison and survive. To demonstrate the efficacy of the poison, the priest first administers it to two condemned prisoners. They die, but John drinks the poison without being harmed. Then Aristodemus, still doubting and despite his promise, challenges John to revive the two dead men. In the Golden Legend John hands his tunic to Aristodemus and tells him to place it over the dead men with the words "the apostle of Christ sends me to you that you may rise up in the name of Christ." In the painting it is a young servant who does this, but the effect is the same: The men arise, and the priest converts.

No other individuals are named in this narrative, so the three persons standing in the middle of the image most likely represent the crowd of people in the Legend who began to praise God after they saw John drink the poison harmlessly.

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