Three Studies for a Figure of St. John the Baptist

WAG 1995.324


The sketchy drawing may represent Mantegna's first thoughts for a painting commissioned in 1499 by Georges, Cardinal d'Amboise, archbishop of Rouen in France, and first minister to the French king Louis XII. The altarpiece was intended to decorate the archbishop's chapel in his Palace in Rouen and may have represented St. John the Baptist with Cardinal as donor on a smaller scale. But the late dating of the drawing is controversial and other scholars prefer an earlier date of between 1455-1459 on stylistic grounds. The light dusting of pinkish chalk rubbed unevently across the paper suggests that Mantegna might have used a remnant of paper for sketching his first thoughts for three diferent poses of St John the Baptist, shown in two poses holding a miniature version of his symbolic attribute a lamb