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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Il mio bel San Giovanni"

A detail of the mosaics on the inside of the dome of the Baptistery in Florence. In general, they date back to the late 13th century, though many areas (including the one shown here above) have undergone restorations throughout the ages, from the 14th century even to the early 20th century, mainly because of water seepage. The whole series of mosaics pictures Bible episodes from Genesis to the Gospels, namely: Creation to Noah, the lives of Joseph the Patriarch, of Jesus, of John the Baptist. The first two series were interpreted as prophecies of man's salvation in Christ.

It is a fine example of Byzantine, or rather, Byzantine-like art in Italy, and in a very important place, in fact it was the main monument in Florence up until the late 14th century, before the Basilica was completed, not to speak of the Renaissance works to come. Here Dante himself was baptized, and he would praise "my beautiful Saint John" in the Divine Comedy. For some reason, however, except for the area with the Dante-inspiring Hell, these mosaics are very seldom reproduced in art books, while much more famous are the 'parallel' ones in Monreale, Sicily.