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Figure of the young St John the Baptist

Montelupo, possibly, c. 1500 - 1550

32.8 cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

It has been thought possible that this is the “Faenza - buste de Saint Jean Baptiste, sur sa console” sold at the Baron sale, Paris, 19-24 Jan. 1846, lot 296; but the Florentine provenance suggests this may not be correct.

The date and origin of this exceptional piece are uncertain; it looks likely to be from a pottery workshop rather than one like that of the Della Robbia family in Florence, whose prime business was the production of sculpture. Dark blue lines combined with blue and brownish-orange patches of colour have been used to render the saint’s animal-hide vest. A similar bust of the same saint is in the De Ciccio collection, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.

Conservation work on this bust was carried out by Penelope Fisher in 1998 thanks to the generosity of a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Bibliography: Fortnum 1897, pp. 59-60, pl. VIII.

Poole 1995, p. 242.

Wilson 1995, p.45.

D. Thornton, The Scholar in his Study (New Haven and London, 1997), p. 85, fig. 54.

J. P. Warren, Renaissance Master Bronzes from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The Fortnum Collection (Daniel Katz Gallery, London, 1999), p. 42, fig. 1.

Presented by C. D. E. Fortnum, 1888.  WA1888.CDEF.C408

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