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Christ baptising Saint John Martyr
Paris Bordone
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A young man kneels in a prison cell, wearing the robes and horned cap of a doge (the elected head of the Venetian state). On the ground are wooden stocks and heavy chains with manacles from which he has just been freed. Christ empties a cup over the young man’s bowed head. Two angels arrive holding towels and one carries a ceramic jug. Another angel with keys appears in the darkened arch to the right.

It was once thought that this painting showed Christ anointing a doge of Venice in prison. In fact, the young man is Neanias, a duke of Alexandria who later became Saint John, a Christian martyr. Neanias was made duke of Alexandria by the Emperor Diocletian and instructed to suppress the Christian community, but was instead converted to Christianity by a vision. However, his mother betrayed him and he was tortured and imprisoned. Christ appeared to Neanias in his cell, accompanied by angels. He baptised Neanias and gave him the name John.

Key facts
Artist Paris Bordone
Artist dates 1500 - 1571
Full title Christ baptising Saint John Martyr
Date made about 1565
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 63.5 x 70.8 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3122
Location in Gallery Not on display
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