The sculpture was acquired by one of the most prominent figures in the Berlin Museums, the art historian Wilhelm von Bode (1845-1929), in Florence in 1878 from the heirs of the old Florentine Strozzi family, along with several outstanding works of painting and sculpture. The role of an intermediary in this historic-scale transaction was carried out by Stefano Bardini (1836-1922), the most significant Italian antiquary of his time. Attributed and published by Bode as Donatello's own handwork, the statue became the pride of the collection and was repeatedly featured in pre-war literature. Bode assumed that it had been commissioned for the baptistery font in the Orvieto Cathedral, asked to Donatello in 1424 but never installed in its supposed place. After the object’s disappearance in the post-war period, the St. John was removed from the list of works attributed to the sculptor. The discovery of archive documents mentioning the statue of St. John with the attribution to Donatello (in the inventory of the Palazzo Martelli, 1493), and a number of stylistic comparisons with the accepted works of the master (the Virtues from the Baptistery in Siena, the Prophets from the Florentine Campanile or the wooden statue of Maria Magdalena now in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence), allow us to return to the original attribution of the sculpture to Donatello. This attribution is enforced by the materials of technical and technological research.
The surface was cleaned, and the oxide layer was consolidated. The metal composition was determined. The fragments (both feet and the right hand) which had been considered lost, were found and attached to the sculpture. The left hand was cast from epoxy composition based on the plaster copy. The special wire frame and pedestal were made.