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Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, 'Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist', 1387

Key facts
Full title Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist: Predella Panels
Artist Niccolò di Pietro Gerini
Artist dates documented 1368; died probably 1415, certainly by 1427
Group Baptism Altarpiece
Date made 1387
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 43.3 × 96.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG579.5
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist
Niccolò di Pietro Gerini

This is the lowest part (the predella) of an altarpiece that depicts Saint John the Baptist in its central panel, baptising Christ in the river Jordan. At either end of the predella are two standing saints: Saint Benedict on the left and Saint Romuald on the right.

The scene on the left shows the moment that Zacharias, John’s father, found out that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, despite their age. According to the Gospel of Luke, he was making an offering at the temple when the Archangel Gabriel appeared and announced that Elizabeth would conceive. The next scene shows Gabriel’s words coming true: Elizabeth is in bed after giving birth. The right-hand section of the predella shows John’s death: he was beheaded, and his head presented on a platter to Herod, King of the Jews.

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Baptism Altarpiece


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.