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The Baptism of Christ

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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Piero was the first artist to write a treatise on perspective – that is, creating an illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat surface. Here, he has painted objects in proportion, so that they appear as we see them in real life. This emphasises the depth of the landscape, but also the harmony of the figures and natural features within it.

Christ stands in a shallow, winding stream as John the Baptist pours a small bowl of water over his head. Three angels in colourful robes witness the event. At this very moment the voice of God was heard – ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3: 16) – and the Holy Ghost, shown here as a dove flying over Christ’s head and towards us, descended upon him.

This painting was made for the small chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in the Camaldolese abbey of Piero’s hometown, Borgo Sansepolcro.

The National Gallery, London

London

Title

The Baptism of Christ

Date

1450s

Medium

Egg on poplar

Measurements

H 167 x W 116 cm

Accession number

NG665

Acquisition method

Bought, 1861

Work type

Painting

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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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