The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist in the Desert

Bernardino Ludovisi1743 - 1747

Museu de São Roque

Museu de São Roque
Lisboa, Portugal

Ludovisi was entrusted with one of the most significant sculptural projects for the Lisbon chapel. Between 1743 and 1744, he produced one of the two marble reliefs for the vaulting – that on the Epistle side, depicting "S. João Baptista Pregando no Deserto" (St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Desert) -, two putti and two cherubim heads (1744), that flank and crown the frame of the relief and a further eight cherubim heads (1744) enhancing the coffered vaulting. The quality of the modelling is beyond question, owing to the expressiveness of both physiognomy and gesture, which characterizes Ludovisi’s sculptures.


  • Title: The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist in the Desert
  • Creator Lifespan: 1694 - 1749
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: 1749
  • Creator Birth Place: 1694
  • Date: 1743 - 1747
  • Provenance: Igreja de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Museu de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • External Link: Museu de São Roque/Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • Medium: Carrara marble and metal
  • Sculptor: Bernardino Ludovisi
  • Manufactured: Rome, Italy
  • Commission: Considered to be a masterpiece unique in European art, the Chapel of Saint John the Baptism was ordered from Rome in 1742 by King John V (ruled 1706-50). It was constructed between 1742 and 1752, when it was officially inaugurated in Lisbon. The Portuguese court oversaw the construction, designed and built in Italy, under the artistic direction of the architects Luigi Vanvitelli (1700–73) and Niccolo Salvi (1697–1751).Luigi Vanvitelli was forced to change its original design to comply with the alterations sent to Italy by the architect João Frederico Ludovice (1673-1752). Hundreds of different artists and craftsmen worked on it. Consecrated by Pope Benedict XIV on 15 December 1744, in the Church of St. Anthony of the Portuguese (Sant'Antonio dei Portoghesi) in Rome, it was sufficiently finished that the Pope could say mass in it on 6 May 1747. Later, the chapel was dismantled, transported to Lisbon in three ships, and reassembled in São Roque two years later.

Additional Items

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps