Three characters in Lyon (III)

Today you will find the last part of three episodes about the characters that troubled me in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon. Previous articles concern a gentleman and Lucretia.


Francesco Furini - Sf. Ioan Evanghelistul


This work is also conceived on a dark background but, when compared with the previous two pieces, it has more than light, it has colour and density. Its structure is built as a pyramid as you can see in the  scheme below. It is a typical construction where the center of the painting corresponds to the center of the composition. Its ascending form is balanced by the horizontal line drawn by the hand lied down on the table. It constitutes the basis of the pyramid, its solidity (the writing hand of the Gospel that is the basis of Christianism). The light comes from the left of the viewer. The garment is painted on a deep hue of vermillon that brings contrast to the neutral shades in the rest of the painting. 

Character analysis

John the Evangelist is the youngest of Christ's apostles and the author of the Gospel of John. There are two hints in the painting: at a closer look to the real painting one can read on the pages of the manuscript: "In principio erat verbum" (At first there was the word) which points to the first words of the Gospel of John. In the little yellow circle at right you can see the ink and the pen that also hint to the writer qualities of John. The character is young as one can most frequently see this John represented in art. He does not look at us, he gazes elsewhere in a meditative posture most likely uncommon for young men of his age enhancing our feeling of watching a special persona.


There is an astonishing purity on the character's face that is even more reinforced than contrasted by the colour of the garment. The use of vermillon here is associated with the idea of clerical function and it has very little to do with the sin innuendo it produced in the XIXth century. John the Evangelisth looks like an extremely serious child and gives viewers an instinctive inclination of asking him questions about vocation and evolution.