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--- St. John at the Last Supper ---

With the huge commercial success of Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code", some of the theories from this book became very popular. One of them says that Leonardo da Vinci placed Mary Magdalene and not St. John next to Jesus in his Last Supper painting. But a lot of other artist gave St. John, who was called "the beloved disciple" in the Bible, a certain look, which is now considered by many people as "feminine", but not necessarily five centuries ago. Since ancient times he was believed to be very young, so young that he did not even have a real growth of beard. You can also see his long hair and the devouted gestures on many other paintings of the Renaissance. This hairstyle was very fashionable for young Italians during the time of Leonardo da Vinci. It should be noted that not only John, but also other apostles were sometimes depicted in the same way.

We must try to understand the viewpoint of these artists, who grew up in a very androcentric environment - men and boys had a far more important position in this society than in the western world of today. The ideal of beauty since the 19th century became very gynocentric - a cute face is since then usually interpreted as "feminine", although most traits of a woman aren't specifically female. Compare the face of a pretty actress with the ones of young boys and you see it yourself: what still remains of the so called "Kindchenschema" makes most people believe that women would be the beautiful gender. Since St. John was considered to be very young, he was simply not old enough to look very adult. That is the reason, why people mistake him for a female, just like many long haired boys were mistaken for girls by elderly people during the 70s. They were not used to that look just like most Dan Brown fans are not familiar with depictions of St. John, done by other artists. Because of that, I decided to show you some examples from medieval times, the Renaissance and the Baroque era to underline my arguments. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

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Master of Gotland
c.1240
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Duccio
1308 - 1311
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Pietro Lorenzetti
c. 1320
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Giotto
1320 - 1325
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Jaume Serra
1370 - 1400
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Bertram von Minden
1390 - 1400
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Master of Raigen
1410 - 1420
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Sassetta
1423
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Andrea del Castagno
c. 1447
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Jaume Bašo Jacomart
c. 1450
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Dieric Bouts the Elder
1464 - 1467
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Taddeo Crivelli
1469
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Jaume Huguet
c. 1470
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Master of Frankfurt
c. 1480
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Cosimo Rosselli
1481 - 1482
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Domenico Ghirlandaio
1480
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Domenico Ghirlandaio
c. 1486
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Gil de Siloe
1496 - 1499
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Spanish Master
1498 - 1504
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Luca Signorelli
1502
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Master Paul of L§cse
1508 - 1517
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Andrea del Sarto
1520 - 1525
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Bernaert van Orley
1520 - 1530
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Hans Holbein the Younge
1524 - 1525
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Jacobo Bassano
1542
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Juan de Juanes
c. 1560
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El Greco
1568
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Daniele Crespi
1624 - 1625
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Valentin de Boulogne
1625 - 1626
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Philippe de Champaigne
1630



--- Other depictions of the Apostle ---

The following paintings present the apostle in another context. Like in the Last Supper, he was depicted by most artists as a long haired teenager. Other painters, especially those from Germany and the Netherlands, gave him an older appearance, but even there he is almost always beardless. Again you'll see that Leonardo da Vinci's way to portray him was hardly so unusual as Dan Brown wants us to believe. Even artists, who couldn't see Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" before they started doing their own work, depicted the apostle like that, so everybody, who claims they just copied Leonardo da Vinci's idea, is therefore wrong.

click to enlarge
Giotto
"Washing of the Feet"
1304 - 1306
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Duccio
"Washing of the Feet"
1308 - 1311
click to enlarge
South-German Master
"Christ and John"
c. 1320
click to enlarge
South-German Master
"Christ and John"
c. 1320
click to enlarge
Simone Martini
"Crucifixion"
1333
click to enlarge
Giovanni da Milano
"Crucifixion"
c. 1350
click to enlarge
Andrea da Firenze
"Crucifixion"
1370 - 1377
click to enlarge
Meister von Brügge
"Crucifixion"
c. 1400
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Jean Malouel
"Pietà"
1400 - 1410
click to enlarge
Antonio da Firenze
"Crucifixion"
1400 - 1450
click to enlarge
Master of Flémalle
"Entombment"
1410 - 1420
click to enlarge
Masaccio
"Crucifixion"
c. 1426
click to enlarge
Jan van Eyck
"Crucifixion"
c. 1430
click to enlarge
Fra Angelico
"Entombment"
1438 - 1440
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Dieric Bouts the Elder
"Christ in the
House of Simon"

c. 1440
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Andrea del Castagno
"Crucifixion"
1440 - 1441
click to enlarge
Giovanni Bellini
"Pietà"
1455
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Andrea Mantegna
"Crucifixion"
1457 - 1459
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Enguerrand Charonton
"Pietà"
c. 1460
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Hans Pleydenwurff
"Deposition"
1465
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Hugo van der Goes
"Lamentation"
1467 - 1468
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Hans Memling
"Lamentation"
1475 - 1480
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Master of the Housebook
"Washing of the Feet"
um 1475
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Master of the Housebook
"Lamentation"
1480 - 1485
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Francesco Francia
"Crucifixion"
c. 1485
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Pedro Sanchez
"Entombment"
c. 1490
click to enlarge
Sandro Botticelli
"Pietà"
c. 1490
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Albrecht Dürer
"Lamentation"
1494 - 1497
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Perugino
"Pietà"
1494 - 1495
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Perugino
"Transfiguration"
c. 1498
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Raffael
"Crucifixion"
1502 - 1503
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Vincenzo Civerchio
"Preparation for
the Last Supper"

1504
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Master of St. Martin
"Entombment"
1509
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Hans Seyfer
"Crucifixion"
1509
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Gerard David
"Deposition"
1510 - 1515
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Italian Master
"Lamentation"
1519
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Albrecht Altdorfer
"Crucifixion"
1520
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Il Sodoma
"Pietà"
1533
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Bronzino
"Deposition"
1545
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Giorgio Vasari
"The Garden of
Gethsemane"

c. 1570



--- St. John the Evangelist ---

According to the Christian tradion, the Apostle John and John the Evangelist would be one and the same person. It doesn't matter, whether modern experts share that idea, since artists from medieval times, the Renaissance and the Baroque era only knew, what everybody was told back then. That is why the Evangelist is often depicted in the same way as the Apostle. Sometimes we see a bearded John the Evangelist, especially when the artist wants to show how he looked like at the end of his life as he was said to have died at a very old age.

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Cimabue
1301 - 1302
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Pietro Lorenzetti
c. 1320
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Limbourg Brothers
1412 - 1416
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Jan van Eyck
1432
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Enguerrand Charonton
1452
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Master of Ulm
c. 1470
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Martin Schongauer
1470 - 1475
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Hans Memling
1475
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Veit Stoss
1477 - 1489
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Hieronymus Bosch
c. 1490
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Tilman Riemenschneider
1490 - 1492
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Michel Erhart
1493
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Master of
St. Wolfgang

1497
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Fra Bartolommeo
1504
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Gerard David
1505
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Tilman Riemenschneider
1505 - 1510
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unknown Master
c. 1510
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Hans Baldung
c. 1515
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Andrea del Sarto
1517
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Correggio
1520 - 1524
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Juan de Juanes
1545 - 1550
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Federico Barocci
1580
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Guido Reni
1594 - 1598
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El Greco
1595 - 1604
click to enlarge
El Greco
um 1608
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Joachim A. Wtewael
1610 - 1615
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Jacob Jordaens
c. 1620
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Alessandro Algardi
1629
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Francesco Furini
c. 1630
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Alonso Cano
1646 - 1650



--- Pictures of young males by Leonardo da Vinci
and other Renaissance artists ---

Here are some other examples that give you a good idea, how young males were usually depicted in the art of the Renaissance. As I said before, these faces look "feminine" to modern eyes, but not to the sculptors and painters themselves. They looked for a higher, eternally youthful ideal of beauty, which could be described as "angelic". You can see that very well at these five angels that are displayed here. It is interesting to note that during the 19th century, angels really became women, as they now had female breasts, as a result of the different (much more bourgeois and heterosexual orientated) zeitgeist, while the angels of the Renaissance still had a flat chest.

Following Dan Brown's logic, a sketch for St. Philip would also "clearly show a woman". His assumption that Leonardo da Vinci would have replaced John with Mary Magdalene is getting even more absurd, when you keep in mind that many biographers, for example Serge Bramly, tend to think that Leonardo da Vinci and several other Renaissance artists were mainly, if not exclusively attracted to these beardless young males - their students and models. In the case of Leonardo da Vinci, one of them was nicknamed "Salai" (Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno). It's very much possible that Salai even modelled for "The Last Supper" as he was in his mid teens, when Leonardo did this famous wall-painting. He also looked very much like the St. John in this painting, especially if you compare it with "The Angel Incarnate". Besides that, they even have the same name, as Gian is only an Italian version of John.

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Leonardo da Vinci
"Study of a naked Man
with a stab"

1476 - 1480
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Head of a Youth
with curly hair"

c. 1478
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Studies of Heads
in Profile"

1478 - 1480
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Sketch of St. Philip
for The Last Supper"

c. 1495
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Heads of an old Man
and a Youth"

1495 - 1500
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Study of a Young Boy"
(Salai?)

undated
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unknown Artist
"Portrait of Salai" (?)
undated
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Leonardo da Vinci
"Bacchus"
1510 - 1515
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Leonardo da Vinci
"St. John the Baptist"
1513 - 1516
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Leonardo da Vinci
"The Angel Incarnate"
(Salai?)

c. 1513
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Simon Marmion
"Choir of Angels"
c. 1459
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Francesco Botticini
"Three Archangels
and Tobias" (Michael)

c. 1470
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Hans Memling
"The Archangel
St. Michael"

c. 1479
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Sandro Botticelli
"Altar (St. Michael)"
c. 1490
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Domenico Ghirlandaio
"Madonna in Glory with Saints" (Michael)
1490 - 96
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Perugino
"Tobias with the Angel Raphael"
1500 - 1505
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Raffaello
"St. Michael trampling
the Devil"

c. 1505
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Luca Signorelli
"The Trinity, the Virgin
& Two Saints" (Michael)

1510
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Luca Signorelli
"The Trinity, the Virgin
& Two Saints" (Gabriel)

1510
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Bronzino
"The Archangel
St. Michael"

1540 - 1541
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Donatello
"David"
c. 1440
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Andrea Mantegna
"St. George"
c. 1460
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Nuno Gonšalves
"St. Vincent"
c. 1460
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Verrocchio
"David"
1475
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Hans Memling
"Young man at prayer"
c. 1475
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Antonello da Messina
"St. Sebastian"
1476 - 1477
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Sandro Botticelli
"Portrait of a young Man"
c. 1477
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Sandro Botticelli
"Portrait of a Youth"
c. 1482 - 1483
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Pinturicchio
"Portrait of a Boy"
1482 - 1485
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Master of the Housebook
"Loving Couple
of Gotha"

1480 - 1485
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Giovanni Bellini
"Madonna with Child and
St. Peter & St. Sebastian"

c. 1487
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Domenico Ghirlandaio
"Adoration of the Magi"
1488
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Lorenzo Costa
"St. Sebastian"
1490 - 1491
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Albrecht Dürer
"Self-Portrait"
1493
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Perugino
"Portrait of a Youth"
1495
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Perugino
"Apollon and Marsyas"
c. 1496
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Luca Signorelli
"Resurrection of the Flesh"
1499 - 1502
click to enlarge
Raffaello
"St. Sebastian"
1501 - 1502
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Pinturicchio
"The Crowning
of Piccolomini"

1502 - 1507
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Raffaello
"Portrait of
Pietro Bembo"

c. 1504
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Raffaello
"Self-Portrait"
1506
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Giorgione
"Portrait of a Youth"
1508 - 1510
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Michelangelo
"Ignudo"
1509 - 1510
click to enlarge
Baldassare Peruzzi
"The Abduction
of Ganymede"

1510
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Raffaello
"Portrait of
Bindo Altoviti"

1512
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Parmigianino
"Self-Portrait in a
Convex Mirror"

c. 1524
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Correggio
"Portrait of a Boy"
1525
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Giovanni F. Caroto
"Read-headed Youth
Holding a Drawing"

c. 1525
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Andrea del Sarto
"St. John the Baptist"
1528
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Bronzino
"St. John the Baptist"
1550 - 1555


--- Links ---

History vs The Da Vinci Code


www.davincispeaks.net


Non sono Maddalena... parte 1
 
Non sono Maddalena... parte 2



© 14. April 2006

updated 14. April 2009