Navarrete’s intimate representation of St John the Baptist in prison shows John alone in a cell with a shaft of light coming in through a window fitted with iron bars. Generally, when John the Baptist is portrayed, one can recognize him with his camel-skin clothes and a wiry physique. However, Navarrete depicts a supple and muscular John the Baptist.

Navarrete has placed John’s shawl to the side as he is hunched bare-shouldered over the table looking at the cross. Around the cross is the scroll that says “Behold the Lamb of God” (Ecce Agnus Dei), referring to the words spoken by John the Baptist immediately before he baptized Christ. St John is known as the forerunner, the one who prepares the way of Christ and announces him as the Messiah.

Though seemingly downcast, looking toward the cross in contemplation and introspection, John is also depicted as physically beautiful, evoking a kind of sensuality, which Navarrete accentuates through highlighting his forearms, his sinuous fingers and his far shoulder, which the light kisses with lyrical chiaroscuro. His hands are elegantly crossed over one another, as if to emulate the very cross that he is looking at. The reason for this air of melancholy is perhaps his awareness of Christ’s death as well as his imminent beheading at the hands of Herod, possibly at the erotic whim of Salome.

This work is now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.