Starting 17 April, visitors to the Crypt beneath the Cathedral of Siena will admire a masterpiece of Italian art: Saint John the Baptist by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, from the Pinacoteca Capitolina in Rome.
The painting has been housed in the Campidoglio since 1750, and is definitely one of the great painter’s most fascinating works, in which he ingeniously expresses his reflections on naturalism in painting and religious
sentiment. Critics today unanimously agree in attributing this painting to Caravaggio, also owing to a painstaking series of technical investigations that have proven the work’s authenticity. Caravaggio painted this Saint John the Baptist in 1602, probably for Ciriaco Mattei, one of the figures most in the public eye in contemporary Roman society. The subject of the painting is a clear reference to Ciriaco’s son, Giovanni Battista. Intended for private quarters in the Palazzo Mattei and not for a place of worship, Saint John the Baptist is a profound synthesis of Caravaggio’s meditations on sacred art. For this reason, as the compositional model for the Baptist, the painter uses one of the beautiful Nudes Michelangelo frescoed in the vault of the Sistine Chapel, the most striking and complex work of the Italian Renaissance.