The depiction of St. John the Baptist's legend in Florence, 1300-1500
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This thesis focuses on the portrayal of St. John the Baptist in Florence during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The first chapter is devoted to the examination of the Baptist's legend as outlined in the Bible and apocryphal texts in order to draw a picture of the saint's legend as the Florentines of the Renaissance would have understood it. The interest in the image of the Baptist stemmed from his position as patron saint of the city. As a result of this state of affairs, a discussion of the origins of the city's adoption of the saint is essential to our understanding of his importance in Florence. This analysis together with a description of the Festival of the Baptist celebrated in the city, forms the background to a fuller understanding of the works of art under discussion. The examination of Florentine works of art dealing with the Baptist's life concentrates on eight full pictorial cycles. These comprise four projects for the Florentine Baptistery (the mosaic programme in the Baptistery; Andrea Pisano's bronze doors; the Silver Altar; a set of embroidery vestments), a state-commissioned altarpiece by Giovanni del Biondo, and three privately commissioned cycles (frescoes in the chapels of the Peruzzi, the Castellani, and the Tornabuoni families). The examination of these works focuses initially on the textual sources which may have inspired the work of art itself, and the influence of different patrons on the portrayal of the saint. The significance of the cultural and social data reflected by these works are what this thesis aims to draw attention to.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy