The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
  • Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792)
  • Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
  • England
  • c. 1776
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Frame size: 149 x 102.2 cm
    Image size: 132 x 102.2 cm
  • P48
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Reynolds painted several versions of the infant St John the Baptist in the Wilderness, a subject which enabled him to pay homage to the Old Masters, in terms of subject matter, composition and technique. The most obvious source is Raphael’s painting of the same theme (1518-20, Uffizi Gallery, Florence), which was well known in the eighteenth century. However, whereas Raphael depicted the Baptist as an adolescent, Reynolds represents him as a young boy, perhaps inspired by the work of Murillo. This shift of emphasis reflects Reynolds’s interest in childish innocence, which was a central aspect of the ‘fancy pictures' he painted in this period.

    This painting would have originally stood out for its rich chiaroscuro and painterly texture. Today, however, these details are concealed by the poor condition of the painting, which is largely the result of Reynolds's unconventional technique and materials.

    It was acquired by the 3rd Marquess of Hertford in 1813.