Oil on canvas; 42 by 31 ins; 109 x 79 cm; held in a period neo-classical gilded composition frame
The subject of St. John is one that has been popular with artists throughout the centuries, his life providing a rich vein of pictorial scenes. Here we see him surrounded by a throng of enthralled listeners whilst he preaches; earnest and authoritative, he is depicted with the Lamb of God and the long stemmed cross with the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei, derived from the fourth gospel.
This is a spirited and lively copy of the painting by Giovanni Battista Pittoni (1687- 1767)which is in the Klostermuseum, Ottobeuren, Germany; executed probably for an ecclesiastical setting it was later placed in a neo-classical frame probably for a domestic interior. Like his illustrious younger Venetian contemporary Giambattista Tiepolo, Pittoni helped to spread the international success of the Venetian Rococo style. Most of his religious, mythological, and historical paintings were created for German, Polish, and Russian patrons. He first trained with his uncle, Venetian painter Francesco Pittoni, then joined the guild in Venice in 1716.In the 1720s and 1730s, Pittoni’s nervous brushwork produced vibrant Rococo paintings that reveal a debt to Sebastiano Ricci and Tiepolo. A sophisticated colorist, he imbued his elegant pictures with an Arcadian mood close in feeling to the French Rococo. Later, Pittoni’s palette lightened and his compositions became more sedate, probably due to the prevailing trend towards Neoclassicism. Highly regarded by his contemporaries, Pittoni was a founding member of the Venetian Academy and succeeded Tiepolo as president of the institution in 1758. In his own time he was regarded as one of the most important painters in Venice and as such his paintings were much admired for many years.
Literature: F Zava Boccazzi Pittoni Venice, 1979, p.148, cat. 135, illustrated pl.100. With thanks to Raphael Valls for suggesting the dateline of this copy as being during Pittoni’s lifetime.