The dimensions of this poplar-wood panel suggest that it once formed part of the decoration of the room, probably the wainscoting of a bedroom. Bartolommeo di Giovanni specialized in domestic works, which included embellishments for furniture. This panel is typical of his work, with its barrel-shaped figures, meticulously observed and brightly colored draperies, chiaroscural lighting if faces, and carefully gauged spatial setting.
The composition, inspired by the frescoes of Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) in the Florentine church of Santa Maria Novella, comprises incidents from the early life of the Baptist, arranged chronologically from right to left: the Visitation (the meeting of the prospective parents of Jesus and John); the birth of Saint John; the naming of John by his father, Zacharias; the youthful Baptist taking leave of his parents; the return of the Holy Family from Egypt; and their meeting in the desert with the young Saint John. At the extreme right, in the background, is a portrayal of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata from the crucified Christ appearing above him. Bartolommeo may have depicted later events in the life of the Baptist in the other panels within the same ensemble.
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