Study for the Figure of the Infant Saint John the Baptist

Object Details


Study for the Figure of the Infant Saint John the Baptist


Fra Bartolommeo (Baccio della Porta) (Italian, 1472 - 1517)




about 1509


Black and white chalk on buff-colored paper; squared in black chalk for transfer


23.5 x 11.1 cm (9 1/4 x 4 3/8 in.)

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As evidenced by the chalk grid, Fra Bartolommeo was well along in the design of his composition for the Getty Museum's painting, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with St. John the Baptist, by the time he made this drawing. He had squared this sheet for enlargement onto the cartoon, the final stage before beginning to paint, which incorporated all the elements of pose, movement, and lighting.

In this study, Fra Bartolommeo settled on the lighting, choosing to illuminate the infant from the rear while leaving the front of his body in shadow, is just as in the later painting. Saint John the Baptist's stiff, forward-leaning posture was an important part of the painting's pyramid of figures, a typical High Renaissance arrangement that contributed greatly to the drawing's sense of calm stability.

From Line to Light: Renaissance Drawing in Florence and Venice (July 20 to October 10, 2010)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 20 to October 10, 2010