St John the Baptist
Syracuse, New York, USA, 1953
bronze, 257 x 72 x 100 cm
property of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Split and Makarska, the Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Split
Ivan Meštrović made the statue of St John the Baptist in 1953, at the request of the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Split and Makarska, Mons. Frano Franić, for the baptistery of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Split. The baptistery, which bears the name of the saint, is located in the nearby space of the former Temple of Jupiter of Diocletian’s Palace.
In his deliberations on the appearance of the sculpture, Meštrović clearly respected the ambiental context in which the statue was to be placed: the Late Antique architecture of the 3rd century temple and the medieval relief sculpture of the 11th century on the baptismal font in the temple.
John the Baptist is presented as an ascetic, holding in his hand a dish used in the ritual of baptism. In the lines on the drawn and weary face of the saint, dominated by the large sunken eyes and the half-open mouth, we can recognise an earlier Meštrović work – Head of St John the Baptist, modelled in Rome in 1914. Both works speak with the visual language of the past. With its Expressionist idiom, the head awakens memories of the Gothic, while the statue that shows the whole figure is in some details adjusted to the architectural decoration close to which it is placed: the Early Romanesque relief depiction of the Croatian ruler on the pluteus incorporated into the font.
(M. Š. P.)