St. John the Baptist

For the chapel of Fiorentini, Donatello made the only Venetian piece of art created by the great master: St. John the Baptist. Above the statue there is a Latin inscription, taken from an antiphony celebrating the precursor, which states the following: «Inter natos mulierum non surrexit major Joanne Baptista». (Among those who were given birth to by a woman, none were as great as John the Baptist). The statue by Donatello, 1.55 m tall, was placed on the chapel’s altar in 1438. It can be said that Donatello, in realising this sculpture, sacrificed form for expression, a significant example of the new Renaissance culture. Mortified by penance and dressed in a shaggy animal skin and mantle thrown over his shoulders, the saint holds a scroll, between his tapering fingers, which states: “Ecce Agnus Dei”. The admonishing power of the Baptist is conserved in his animated look and raised arm. On the plinth there is the signature of the artist and the date, 1438: “Opus Donati de Florentia anno MCCCCXXXVIII”.