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The Voice in the Desert (La voix dans le désert)

James Tissot

European Art

Tissot opens the section on Jesus’ ministry by introducing John the Baptist, who prophesied his coming, urged repentance, and practiced the cleansing rite of baptism. Calling out from the vast, rugged deserts of Judaea, the Baptist here throws his arms up in the air.

In his commentary, Tissot notes the resounding echo effect in the rocky valleys the Baptist inhabited, heightening his emphatic call to “make straight the way of the Lord.” The artist’s commentaries, which at times read like a travelogue, also provide his readers with details that summon their other senses as they ponder his images.

Living and preaching in the wilderness, the Baptist bears the marks of privation—most notably, his wild, knotted hair, a traditional attribute. Additionally, he wears a rough camel-hair cloak, testament to his penitence, and carries a staff for support in his wanderings.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 11 7/16 x 6 11/16 in. (29.1 x 17 cm) Sheet: 11 7/16 x 6 11/16 in. (29.1 x 17 cm) Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed bottom right: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.44
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION James Tissot (Nantes, France, 1836–1902, Chenecey–Buillon, France). The Voice in the Desert (La voix dans le désert), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 11 7/16 x 6 11/16 in. (29.1 x 17 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.44 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.44_PS1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.44_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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