Initial D: Saint John the Baptist

Object Details

Title:

Initial D: Saint John the Baptist

Artist/Maker(s):

Attributed to Cosmè Tura (Italian (Ferrarese), about 1430 - 1495)

Culture:

Italian

Place(s):

Ferrara, Italy (Place created)

Date:

about 1470 - 1480

Medium:

Tempera and gold on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 35 x 29.8 cm (13 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.)

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The isolated figure of John the Baptist is set against a harsh, minimal landscape. He points up toward heaven with a brittle finger and looks down reflectively toward the inhospitable earth. The Latin words on his winding scroll, taken from the Bible, explain the barren setting, Ego vox clamantis [in deserto] (I am the voice crying aloud in the wilderness).

The cutting comes from a Franciscan gradual (the choir book containing the sung portions of the mass) illuminated by the important fifteenth-century Italian artist, Cosmè Tura, official court artist to the prominent Este family of Ferrara. Tura imbues the scene with a sense of palpable melancholy, not only through the sensitively rendered face of Saint John, but also through the stark landscape and muted colors of the miniature.

Related Works
Exhibitions
Treasures of a Lost Art: Italian Manuscript Painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (June 7 to August 31, 2003)
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, (San Francisco), June 7 to August 31, 2003
Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum (September 25, 2005 to January 2, 2006)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), September 25, 2005 to January 2, 2006
Landscape in the Renaissance (August 1 to October 15, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), August 1 to October 15, 2006
Music for the Masses: Illuminated Choir Books (August 14 to October 28, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), August 14 to October 28, 2007
Rare Finds: Ten Years of Collecting Manuscripts (February 12 to April 20, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 12 to April 20, 2008
Renaissance Splendors of the Northern Italian Courts (March 31 to June 21, 2015)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 31 to June 21, 2015