Juan Martínez Montañés was one of the greatest spanish sculptors of the first half of the seventeenth century. Based in Seville, he carved numerous wooden statues and reliefs that were painted and integrated into large altar screens called retablos (English: retables) for churches in his native region or to be shipped to the New World. His forte as an artist was the single figure, standing or seated, usually robust, naturally posed, and richly robed.
This statue of Saint John the Baptist, a rare work by the master in a collection outside Spain or South America, illustrates these points. A mature man with a powerful physique, he wears a short brown tunic cinched with a rope around the waist. A crimson robe patterned with foliage and cherub heads is draped over his shoulder and partially covers the rock formation on which he stands and leans. His left hand rests on the rock while his right reaches across his body to point. This gesture was certainly toward a missing Lamb of God on an altar in the monastery church for which Saint John was made or toward the top of a banderole with the message "Behold the Lamb of God" stuck in the ground by the saint’s left foot (where a hole exists) and rising to his left shoulder.