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Baptism Altarpiece

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This altarpiece is the earliest known example that shows the baptism of Christ as the central image – in large multi-panelled altarpieces it was usually the Virgin and Child.

It was made for a chapel in Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Camaldolese monastery in Florence. The chapel was dedicated to the feast commemorating Saint John the Baptist’s death, but the central panel depicts the key moment in his life: when he baptised Christ in the river Jordan.

The inscription tells us that it was commissioned by one of the monastery’s monks, Don Filippo Nerone Stoldi, in memory of his mother. The monastery contained many altarpieces commissioned by Florentine families, which served as memorials. One of the monks’ duties was to say prayers for the souls of the dead on days specified by the families.

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