St. John the Baptist - Leonardo da Vinci. Oil on wood, 69x57 cm
"John the Baptist" - one of the most famous masterpieces of da Vinci of his late period of creativity.
Art historians agree that in this picture the great artist brought the sphumato technique he discovered to perfection. The figure of John da Vinci placed on a dark dull background to focus the viewer only on the hero, and with the help of sphumato, the master achieved a unique enveloping effect.
The model for the painting was the famous student of Leonardo - Salai, who has been with the master for more than 20 years, and historians still argue about the nature of their relationship.
The picture itself combines both traditional symbolism and innovative elements. The hero has a effeminate appearance and is dressed in woolen clothes, the image of him with long hair and a finger pointing to the sky is also canonical. However, the finger raised up was the leitmotif in many works of the great Italian. The figure of John and his right hand, placed in their diagonals, resemble an encrypted symbol of the cross. The reed cross itself can hardly be guessed in the picture. The hero is not soulless and strict - a slight smile plays on his faces, and his eyes seem alive and fixed, moreover, he is incredibly young, which did not fit in with modern ideas about the famous Saint. The picture caused bewilderment even among fans of Leonardo.
If we recall the author’s earlier works, where the characters are always placed in a picturesque background, where nature stands, then “John the Baptist” looks more than original in this regard, which not only indicates the author’s creative search, but also a gradual change in the aesthetics of Renaissance painting . Some researchers believe that in this work, da Vinci laid the foundation for mannerism, which will increasingly manifest itself in subsequent years, which replaced the Renaissance.