Study of a Carved Statue of St John the Baptist
Above we see St John depicted as a child in sculpture. It would appear that he was holding something and that prop is now missing.
It is safe to conclude that he was probably holding a slender cross and that it might have had a banner attached to it with an inscription.
For the childhood and youth of St John, visual art relies on oral traditions and the biblical passage which explains that "the child grew, and was strengthened in spirit; and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel'" (Luke 2:80).
Bible passages indicate that he might have been a Nazerite because he abstained from wine and strong drink. Nazerites never cut their hair and it is thought that St John had long, unruly hair much like the noteworthy Old Testament Nazerites- Samuel and Samson.
The child John, as depicted in this carving, already has the attribute of thick, unkempt hair.
Like the precious Christ Child statutes, you'll often see little St John robed in finery while still maintaining a semblance of his worldly attire. For example, note that his garment has a fur lining.
The embellishment of the garment is exquisitely intricate. We see an elaborate repetition of scroll work and Maltese crosses with tool work.
According to one source, the Maltese cross is a
"a form of Greek cross in which the arms are arrows meeting at a center. Each point on the cross stands for one of the beatitudes (MT 5:8). This cross came to be identified with Malta and the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
The organization was founded in order to care for pilgrims in the Holy Land and then became one of the militant orders along with the Templars during the Crusades. According to Michael Foster, the Maltese cross was assumed as their cross later during their stay in Malta. St. John Ambulance was established in 19th century Great Britain to care for the wounded in war. The organization considers itself an ancestor to the order founded in Jerusalem.
A Maltese cross is the form used for many medals and associations, including firemen, due to accounts that during the crusades the knights had to fight fires caused by the Saracens using naptha-based explosives."
Ravages of Time
At one time this statue must have been dazzling to behold. However, since it's unveiling over three and a half centuries ago, the gold leaf and paint have warn thin or disappeared all together in parts. Despite it's wear, this life sized "doll" of St John (and Jesus below) still warms the heart.
MORE ST JOHN
St John the Baptist is a well-loved saint. And not surprisingly so.
One of the earliest icons of St John the Baptist, above, was found at the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai and is dated to the 6th century.
We know about St John through biblical passages, pious traditions and writings.
And just a reminder that I am an iconographer. Below is an Eastern icon of St John, ready to be commissioned and completed upon request.
The board is handmade and measured exactly to this selection which is 10 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches wide. It is 1/2" thick. A traditional fabric layer was applied and then many fine layers of gesso were applied until the board became smooth like marble. In other words, this is a perfect and lasting paint surface.
The thought would be to complete this in acrylic or using pure pigments with a synthetic binder- for a more brilliant appearance. 23 KT gold halo.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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Christine M. (CM) Jentz.
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“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” (St. André Bessette)