Pinacoteca di Brera Informazioni

St. John the Baptist

Francesco del Cossa

The painting constitutes one of the wings of a large altarpiece executed around 1473 to a commission from the merchant Floriano Griffoni and intended for the family chapel in the Bolognese church of San Petronio. The polyptych, dedicated to St. Vincent Ferrer, was ordered just a few years after the saint’s canonization (1458) and painted by the artist in collaboration with Ercole de’ Roberti, who executed the small panels of the predella. The work remained in the Griffoni Chapel until 1725-30, when the individual panels were sold separately on the antique market and dispersed: the panels in Brera were acquired by the collector Giuseppe Cavalieri in 1893, at the suggestion of Adolfo Venturi, but was only through the insight of Roberto Longhi that, in 1934, the fragments in Brera, the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery in Washington were identified as parts of single, imposing structure, one of the cornerstones of Cossa’s production and Ferrarese Renaissance painting.
The two saints, displaying all the solidity of wooden sculpture, stand on rocky outcrops which serve to isolate them, almost like the base of a statue, from the bizarre landscape where arches with unstable keystones frame plains criss-crossed by rivers and dotted with buildings.


Labels by famous authors

It is a feeling thing, to be a painter of things: cause every thing, even an imagined or gone thing or creature or person has essence: paint a rose or a coin or a duck or a brick and you’ll feel it is sure as if a coin had a mouth and told you what it was like to be a coin, as if a rose told you first-hand what petals are, their softness and wetness held in a pellicle of colour thinner and more feeling than an eyelid, as if a duck told you about the combined wet and underdry of its feathers, a brick about the rough kiss of its skin.”
Ali Smith

Download hi-res image TITLE St. John the Baptist
AUTHOR Francesco del Cossa
DATE 1470 - 3
TECNICA OPERA Tempera and gold on panel
DIMENSIONS cm 112 x 55
Work on display
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