“John the Baptist in the Wilderness”
Tiziano Vecellio (Titian)
(Active about 1506 - Died 1576)
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) is well known for painting flaming redheads, so much so that Titian red is a recognised hair colour.
“John the Baptist in the Wilderness” has the traditional elements of a simple staff in crucifix form which is interesting because John had already been executed by the time of Christ’s crucifixion and the cruciform staff begs a question as to whether it is used by the artist to link to Christ or it was a common form of staff. It looks too flimsy to have been much used as a prop or aid to walking, so maybe it is symbolic and was probably artistic licence rather than accurate portrayal.
The clothing does match the descriptions recorded in the Gospels in being rustic and basic, not fine clothes which his family would have worn, but which probably indicates John’s rejection of his old life and adoption of a simpler life in the service of God, where luxury and ornament were redundant.
John is portrayed as having wild hair, again as a result of his lifestyle but a strong athletic figure, which may have been a consequence of living rough.
In the bottom left corner of the painting is a lamb, representing the Lamb of God. In the distance is the River Jordan where John would baptise Christ.
John has his right arm outstretched and his hand pointing out to Jesus.
John stands by a rock and there are no buildings or other signs of humanity in the painting but the landscape looks more park like than wilderness.
The oil on canvas painting is displayed in Gallerie dell'Accademia, in Venice.
Luke 3: 1-6
“1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’”.
In the Gospel we read last week, we were told to “stay awake” and be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. This echoed what we heard two weeks earlier in the Gospel of Mark