Saint John the Evangelist, Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo (Italian, c. 1461–c. 1521) 

Saint John the Evangelist, 1504–6 

Oil on wood panel 

Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1961 (2989.1) 

Saint John the Evangelist is one of Christ’s original twelve apostles, and the only one not to be martyred for his faith. As in this depiction, Saint John is often shown as a beautiful, effeminate young man with a chalice, which could refer to the Last Supper or to the legend that held that that statespoison in a cup of contaminated wine rose up in the form of a serpent when Saint John blessed ita cup of poisoned wine, the poison rose from the wine in the form of a serpent. In Piero di Cosimo’s interpretationvision of the legend, Saint John’s miraculous purification of the fatal drink feels all the more immediate, asfor the chalice sitsrests on a ledge that projects beyond the picture plane into the viewers’ space.