Statuette of Saint John

Italian (Tuscany?)
Medieval (Gothic)
second half of 13th century

Object Place: Europe, Italy


8.1 x 1.9 x 1.6 cm (3 3/16 x 3/4 x 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Gilded copper (100% copper, traces of zinc, lead and tin)

Not On View





Standing figure on a capital. Solid cast, chased, and mercury gilded. With his left hand raised to cover one side of his face in a gesture of mourning, John gazes slightly to the right and stands in a frontal pose holding a closed book with a central clasp in his right hand. His round face with clean shaven chin and fine features gives the evangelist the appropriate youthful appearance. Rendered in soft waves at the crown of the head and with a band of curls around the edge, his hair, short at the sides, forms a long V at the back. Beneath a pallium is a tight sleeved tunic worn over a wide-sleeved dalmatic with parallel lines marking a band at the collar; they fall close to the body and around the feet so that only the tips of the pointed shoes are visible. The pallium, articulated with two lines marking a band on the edge, is draped over the right shoulder and arm and pulled around the back and up under the left arm, creating three large angular folds. It is then gathered behind the book and falls in an unusually long cascade of folds down the center. The figure is finished more roughly in the back.
The capital, on which he stands, of Romanesque style with fine chased hatching, comprises an abacus divided by a single line, a bell with curled flat leaves decorated internally with round fruit at the corners, and an astragal.


1956, Walter Bornheim (b. 1888), Munich; 1956, sold by Bornheim, through August Laube, Zürich, to the MFA for $568. (Accession Date: October 11, 1956)

Walter Bornheim, a sculpture dealer based in Munich, is known for being one of Hermann Goering's most important art buyers. He was responsible for exporting many works of art from France to Germany during World War II. In addition, he took over the art gallery A. S. Drey when it was "Aryanized" in 1936. The United States Office of Strategic Services' Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) issued a detailed interrogation report on his wartime activities as an art dealer in 1945. It is not known how this statuette -- at one time, probably part of a Crucifixion group -- came into his possession.

Credit Line

H. E. Bolles Fund