Donatello, St John the Baptist

Author Donatello
Title St John the Baptist
Material bronze
Technique casting
Size height 83 cm
Conservator(s) Mikhail Tulubensky
Workshop Objects Conservation


St. John the Baptist was  acquired by one of the most prominent figures in Berlin museums a renown 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 dated the statue to ca. 1423 and assumed that it had been commissioned for a baptistery in Orvieto, but not installed in its supposed place. After the object’s disappearance in the post-war period, a number of critical articles of English and American art historians based on archive photographs, refuted Bode's theory, and at the same time deduced St. John 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 (the inventory of the Palazzo Martelli, 1493), and a number of stylistic intersections with the definite works of the master (the figures of Virtues from the Baptistery in Siena, the wooden statue of Magdalene), allow us to return to the original attribution of the sculpture to Donatello. It is enforced by the materials of technical and technological research.