Chiostro dello Scalzo

Andrea del Sarto's Masterpiece in Grisaille

Sarto's Baptism of Christ

Of the Confraternity of San Giovanni Battista, suppressed in 1785 by Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine, all that has survived is this cloister, frescoed in various stages between 1514–24 by Andrea del Sarto. There are 16 scenes of the Life of St John the Baptist, including two by his pupil Franciabigio, who took over in 1518 when his master was summoned to France by François I.

Del Sarto, Browning’s ‘perfect painter’, did these in monochrome grisaille, and while the scene of the Baptism of Christ is beautiful, some of the other panels are the most unintentionally funny things in Florence – the scene of Herod’s banquet is reduced to a meagre breakfast where the king and queen look up indignantly at the man bringing in the platter of the Baptist’s head as if he were a waiter who had made a mistake with their order.

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