Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Oratory of St John the Baptist in Urbino, Italy

In honor of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, here are some pictures which I have been saving for almost a year from a visit to an oratory dedicated to him in the city of Urbino, in the Marches region of Italy. The oratory was built from 1365-93 as the seat of a confraternity named for the Saint, near a hospice which cared for both pilgrims and the sick. At the beginning of the 15th century, the brothers Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni were commissioned to decorate it with stories of the Baptist’s life, which cover most of the right wall, as well as the large Crucifixion scene over the altar; their work was completed by 1416. Although the cycle is not perfectly preserved (most of the work on left and back walls is gone), what remains is one of the best examples in the Marches of the rich International Gothic style. Thanks to Nicola for bringing me to see this artistic gem; I plan on posting some more photos from Urbino soon.
Upper register, the Annunciation to Zachariah; Zachariah writing because he cannot speak; the Visitation; lower register, the young John the Baptist in the desert.
The birth and circumcision of John.
The departure of the Virgin after Her visit to Elizabeth.
This scene towards the back of the building, where paintings are in poor condition, represents an episode not mentioned in the Gospels; Jesus and his cousin meet in the desert when they are children and the holy Family returns from Egypt.
Returning to the lower register: John baptizing in the desert.
The Baptism of Christ
St John’s preaching
On the back wall, a badly damaged image of the disciples of John taking him to burial after his decapitation, and a votive image of him which was not part of the original narrative program.
On the left wall, another damaged image, of the burial of John’s body, and below, another votive image of the Holy Family with the adult St John.
Another votive image, the Virgin and Child with Ss Sebastian and St John.
The ruined back wall.
A view of the cathedral of Urbino and the famous palace of the Duke Federico di Montefeltro. (If you ever took a basic survey of Renaissance art class, you met this fellow, even though you may not remember his name. The artist Piero della Francesca made a well-known portrait of him wearing a round red hat and in profile; he is missing the top of his nose, which he lost during a duel to win the hand of his wife, Battista Sforza.)
The neo-Gothic façade of the oratory, added in the early 20th century.
Another view of the ducal palace.

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