The Infant St. John the Baptist presented to Zacharias

Spinello AretinoAbout 1390

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

This is one of two fragments of two separate wall paintings by Spinello Aretino now in the Walker Art Gallery’s collection. Both came from the Manetti Chapel in the Carmelite Church of Florence. The church was largely destroyed by fire in 1771, but the frescoes survived and were removed from the walls by Thomas Patch in 1771. The complete series illustrated the life of St John. In the second fragment, Salome is shown presenting the head of the martyred saint to King Herod. Patch made engravings of the six frescoes and of details of some of the figures, including Salome. Fresco painting was used for decorating Italian churches from the 13th century. The technique involves applying paint directly and quickly to wet plaster. The artist’s rapid brush strokes can easily be seen.

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  • Title: The Infant St. John the Baptist presented to Zacharias
  • Creator: Spinello Aretino [Spinello di Luca Spinelli]
  • Date Created: About 1390
  • tag / style: Spinello Aretino; Spinello di Luca Spinelli; fresco; St John the Baptist; presented; Zacharias; baby; halo
  • Physical Dimensions: w540 x h515 cm (Without frame)
  • Artwork History: This painting was once owned by William Roscoe. Roscoe (1753-1831) was a successful Liverpool lawyer and Radical politician whose interests included history, poetry, botany, languages and art. Remarkably, he was, on the whole, a self-educated man. To find out more about Roscoe, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/collectors/williamroscoe.asp
  • Artist biographical information: Spinello Aretino was a painter and draughtsman from Arezzo in Tuscany, Italy. He was born around 1350-52, and was buried in the city in 1410. He worked extensively in Florence and was, like several other Tuscan painters, a follower of Giotto’s style. It is possible that he had a large workshop since a number of his frescoes show the work of other, weaker hands.
  • Additional artwork information: Both of the Walker Art Gallery’s Spinello fragments were formerly owned by William Roscoe (1753-1831). Roscoe thought these fresco fragments to be by Giotto (?1266/7-1337), the ‘founder’ of Italian painting. He believed this because Giorgio Vasari said so in his 'Lives of the Artists' (1550), of which Roscoe owned a first edition. Also the frescoes were engraved to illustrate an English 'Life of Giotto' published in 1772. Roscoe owned a copy of the prints, so he knew of the frescoes’ importance when he bought them in England in about 1811. Roscoe especially admired the ‘very elegant figure’ of the Salome (in the Walker’s second Spinello fragment), as did others. It sold for a higher figure in Roscoe’s bankruptcy sale in 1816: he got £10 for it, compared to £4.14s. 6d. (£4.73) for this fragment. The Spinello fragments were the subject of an Artwork Highlight talk at the Walker Art Gallery in 2004. To read the notes from this talk please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=244 To find out more about William Roscoe, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/collectors/williamroscoe.asp
  • Type: Fresco
  • Rights: Presented by Liverpool Royal Institution in 1948