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The Baptism of Christ
Adam Elsheimer

Christ is shown crouching in the river Jordan as Saint John baptises him, pouring water over his head. An angel and two cherubs carry a red drapery to wrap around Christ after baptism. The sky has opened up to reveal the intense light of heaven where the bearded figure of God the Father is surrounded by cherubs. According to the Gospels, God declared: ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3: 17). The Holy Ghost, represented as a dove, soars down from heaven through a circle of naked winged cherubs.

This work is thought to have been painted during the artist’s stay in Venice from 1598 to 1600. The vibrant colours, the dramatic use of light as a way of reinforcing the narrative and the dynamic movement of the figures creating a zig-zag type of composition reflect the works of his Venetian contemporaries, particularly Tintoretto and Veronese.

Key facts
Artist Adam Elsheimer
Artist dates 1578 - 1610
Full title The Baptism of Christ
Date made about 1599
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 28.1 x 21 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1924
Inventory number NG3904
Location in Gallery Not on display
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