John the Baptist (1600) Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Caravaggio completed a number of paintings featured John the Baptist in the early 17th century, with this being the first of that series. This particular work can be found in the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel, Switzerland, although there have been some doubts raised as to whether it actually came from one of the artist's followers.

The artist would revisit this theme many times, capturing John the Baptist in a variety of different poses. Most of these artworks remain in Italy, often still with links to those who originally commissioned them. He is one of the best served masters in Italy, with most others having had their work widely dispersed across Europe, and later to the USA and beyond. It is only those who worked with fresco murals whose work was literally impossible to be taken from its original location who are almost exclusively still represented in Italy. Caravaggio himself was a unique character, both in the style of his work but also his behaviour in his personal life. This ensured a constant movement around the country in order to avoid provincial authorities, which made it harder for Caravaggio to stick to the same patrons for very long at all. His reputation was strong enough to allow him to quickly find new work each time he moved, however.

One the issues with declaring any painting as definitely from the hand of Caravaggio was the way in which his followers took his lead just so precisely. They understood his reasons for working the way that he did, and went further than just being about to recreate the style of his work, it was as if they shared the heart and mind behind it as well. This has ensured that the later-discovered works are much harder to determine as his, rather than perhaps a related artist who perhaps shared his studio or who followed on soon afterwards. The success of his career has also offered a huge financial gain to anyone who can successfully turn a painting under their ownership into something from his career, rather than just an unnamed but talented painter from around the same period. We would literally be talking about something going from a value of around £10-20,000 to multiple millions overnight. The piece falls into that grey area, but undoubtably displays all of the hallmarks of this artist right across its large canvas.

The Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel, Switzerland offers an impressively diverse collection, focusing on everything from the early periods of the Renaissance, right up to the key figures of 20th century art. For example, Seated Harlequin by Pablo Picasso from 1923 can be found here, as well as Piet Mondrian's Composition No.I, with Red and Black, 1929 as well. Jungle with Setting Sun by Henri Rousseau offers plenty of fun and those interested in more traditional art can find the likes of Durer, Degas and Holbein also featured. In terms of Swiss artists, Paul Klee makes a necessary appearance as well. All in all, there is plenty here to suit pretty much any flavour, and although Caravaggio's work is disputed to some extent, it doesn't really detract from this venue because of all else that it has to offer us.