Andrea Solario - inv. 1649

Andrea Solario (c. 1465-1524)

Saint John the Baptist
1512 c.
16,5 x 13,1 cm
1892 acquisition 
Inv. 1649

Lombard Rooms
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This work is linked to Saint Anthony abbot (inv. 1646). 

The two small panels by Andrea Solario respectively show Saint John the Baptist, dressed in animal skins and with a scroll in his hand, and Saint Anthony Abbot, with the friar’s tunic, a stick and a book. The coats of arms present on the back of both paintings have been identified as those of the prelate from Naples, Federico Sanseverino, who probably commissioned this work from the artist during one of his stays in Milan. The choice of Solario was perhaps also motivated by the bond that the prelate had with cardinal Georges d’Amboise, the French patron of the artist.

After being restored by Luigi Cavenaghi soon after entering the Museum, the two paintings are in good condition today. The panel with Saint John the Baptist, realised on a paper ground, shows numerous retouchings in the area of the saint’s chin, while that of Saint Anthony, painted on a gesso ground, has some cracks in the upper part.

The architectural frame enclosing the two figures is strongly perspectival and emphasises how the two panels would probably have made up the side parts of a triptych or tabernacle. The central element, indicated by the hand of the Baptist and by the text on the scroll – “Ecce agnus Dei” – referring to Jesus’ destiny, would have shown an image of the Virgin and Child.

As for the date, the presence of cardinal Sanseverino, who commissioned the work, at a papal council in Milan in 1512, has led scholars to place the two works in that year, corresponding to Solario’s artistically mature phase.


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