To mark the Feast of St John on June 24, the Uffizi Galleries have launched a virtual exhibition devoted solely to the Baptist.
The Saint who Baptized Christ: Scenes from the Life of St John the Baptist can be seen at www.uffizi.it/mostre-virtuali/san-giovanni-battista. Curated by Anna Bisceglia, it takes visitors through 15 of the Uffizi’s artworks, beginning at the 14th and finishing in the 20th century. The selected artists include Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Andrea del Sarto and Mario Bacchelli. There is even a Russian icon.
The artworks depict John the Baptist at different stages of life, from boyhood to death. His decapitation was a favourite artistic subject in the late Renaissance and Baroque periods, but the exhibition gives equal space to scenes of John with his cousin Jesus, scenes marked by deep religious conviction but often great tenderness too.
June 24 is of particular significance to Florence and Florentines, as St John the Baptist is the city’s patron saint. The day is usually marked by a midnight firework display above the church of San Miniato; this year, Florence will be illuminated by a light display after dusk.
Indeed the Uffizi director, Eike Schmidt, noted that “In the late 1700s the Uffizi was crowded only one day of the year, and that was the Festival of St John, when the Florentines were invited to visit the collections that Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opened to the public in 1769.”