John the Baptist (1608) 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
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

This iteration of the theme of John the Baptist was completed by Caravaggio in 1608 and can now be found in the Collezione Bonello in Valletta, Malta.

John the Baptist would become the most used figure within Caravaggio's career, with a great number of portraits of him appearing over a period of around a decade. The compositions would vary greatily in terms of layout and content, but the style was consistently in line with the artist's dramatic combination of light and dark, for which he remains so famous even today. In the main, the artist would work to commission and so perhaps there was an element of patrons viewing his previous work and then choosing to go for something similar for themselves, though with enough variety that it still felt like a unique artwork. He built up a good number of enthusiastic patrons during his lifetime which was necessary due to his continual movements around Italy, which were normally caused by his unstable, even violent behaviour and constantly got him in trouble with the authorities.

The painting in front of us here has received large amounts of damage, unfortuantely. Its presence in a private collection has also ensured that few have been able to access it in recent years. Whilst there was some discussion over whether it was indeed from the hand of Caravaggio, many have drawn similarities in it with that of another of his works, Sleeping Cupid. This connection has been enough to convince most that it is indeed a genuine Caravaggio painting. Until the piece is more readily available, that status is unlikely to change one way or the other. The artwork is around one metre tall and some of the confusion around Caravaggio's work is due to the number of assistants that he had as well as a number of followers who deliberately worked in his style as a means of respect.

The artwork can normally be found in the beautiful city of Valletta in Malta, as part of the Collezione Bonello, but always check ahead if you are making a specific visit to see it in person. Vistors to this region will also be able to see work from a number of other notable artists including a number of followers of the artist from the 17th century. There is also a stunning Turner watercolour to be found here, as well as a good number of other Italian painters, such as Guido Reni at the MUZA. There is also the National Museum of Fine Arts to enjoy as well, and this island continues to offer a cultural experience to match the beauty of its culture and cuisine as it attempts to make itself a true all year round destination for tourism.