Skip to main content

Giovanni di Paolo, The Baptism of Christ: Predella Panel

Key facts
Full title The Baptism of Christ: Predella Panel
Artist Giovanni di Paolo
Artist dates active by 1417; died 1482
Series Baptist Predella
Date made 1454
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 31 × 45 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1944
Inventory number NG5451
Location Gallery F
Collection Main Collection
The Baptism of Christ: Predella Panel
Giovanni di Paolo

Christ stands in a river, the water up to his waist. John the Baptist pours a cup of water over his head, baptising him. As he does, God the Father appears in the sky, surrounded by angels, while a dove, the symbol of the Holy Ghost, descends towards Christ in golden rays.

The scene reflects John’s report of the event found in the Gospel of John: ‘I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.’

The artist was inspired by the Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, who made two sculpted scenes of Christ’s baptism in bronze. The symmetry of this scene resembles the one that Ghiberti made to decorate the doors of the Florence Baptistery. The poses and gestures look like those in the scene Ghiberti made for a baptismal font in Siena – where Giovanni di Paolo worked.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

Baptist Predella


These four panels once formed part of a predella, the lowest part of an altarpiece. Together they tell the story of the life of John the Baptist, the prophet who preached the coming of Christ as the Messiah.

Events run from left to right like a comic strip. At the far left edge was a scene showing John’s birth, followed by his departure into the wilderness and then the baptism of Christ – the main event in John’s life. Another panel, which may have shown John preaching in the wilderness, would have followed, but this did not enter the National Gallery’s collection with the other panels and we don't know where it is now. The final scene shows the saint after his execution.

The predella was probably part of an polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) made by Giovanni di Paolo for the Augustinian church in Cortona.