St John the Baptist by Cavaliere d’Arpino

St John the Baptist is the painting by Cavaliere d’Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari) located in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. It is oil on a slate with 33 x 26 cm dimensions.


Camillo Borghese is chosen by Pope Paul V and instantly names his sister’s child, Scipione Caffarella, Cardinal-Nephew. Not content with being a pope’s nephew, Scipione gets to be the adopted child of his uncle and is known from that point as Scipione Borghese. He got to be the foremost corrupt collector the art world has ever seen.

Scipione must have realized that as Cardinal-Nephew in corrupt 17th-century Rome, he would have more than plentiful access to any funds he might require. So he exchanged his right of legacy with his cousin Marcantonio in trade for each piece within the family’s art collection.

Despite his position of colossal impact, he chose not to include himself in issues of state and instep used his power to fulfill his obsession to have the world’s most exceptional art. The collection was astonishing, but it wasn’t sufficient to satisfy Scipione. He had plans for a marvelous villa, custom-built to display the crown gems of his collection, and he decided to fill it up. One of his favored painters was Giuseppe Cesari, better known as Cavalier d’Arpino, a mannerist painter who might boast that Caravaggio had once been his student.

In reality, it was d’Arpino who introduced Scipione to the work of Caravaggio and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, both of whom would go on to become the cardinal’s favorite artists. Since Caravaggio had once worked in d’Arpino’s studio, the last-mentioned possessed several of Caravaggio’s early works of art and had a collection totaling 107 works by different artists. So naturally, Scipione craved after d’Arpino’s collection (the Caravaggio works in particular), and it didn’t take long before he got his hands on it. Then, in 1607, when the artist fizzled to pay a tax bill, Pope Paul V reallocated his whole collection and gave it to Scipione.

The collection included Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit and Sick Bacchus, both of which hang in his villa nowadays. In case Scipione was addicted to collecting art, at that point his uncle the Pope was his enabler.


The halo of St John the Baptist, beardless and has a womanly perspective, is wedged between the trunks of two trees growing by a spring. Alongside other details of the flora within the frontal area, these are the only naturalistic components within the painting, even though the inventory of 1607 described it as a “little landscape.”

This St John the Baptist (datable some time recently 1607) may have shaped part of the Cavalier d’Arpino’s goods seized on the orders of Paul V in 1607, a date in which constitutes the terminus ante quem for this painting.

Moreover, it was ascribed to Simone Cantarini, a painter from Pesaro, and Paolo Guidotti, likely due to confusion between the labels.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,
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Author: Cavaliere d'Arpino

Cavalier d'arpino

Giuseppe Cesari, known as the Cavaliere d'Arpino, was an Italian Mannerist painter of the late 16th century. The energy, emotional truthfulness, and clear color of his paintings foreshadow the Baroque style of the 17th century. He was much patronized in Rome by both Clement and Sixtus V. Also, he was the studio chief, in which Caravaggio trained upon the younger painter's arrival in Rome.

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