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Probably by Lorenzo Monaco, The Baptism of Christ

Key facts
Full title The Baptism of Christ
Artist Probably by Lorenzo Monaco
Artist dates active 1399; died 1423 or 1424
Date made 1387-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 38.5 × 28.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Viscount Rothermere, 1926
Inventory number NG4208
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Baptism of Christ
Probably by Lorenzo Monaco

This small octagonal painting shows Christ being baptised in the river Jordan by Saint John the Baptist, his cousin. Delicate wavy white stripes around Christ’s knees show where his body has disturbed the water’s surface.

The picture’s size suggests that it was part of the predella – the lowest part – of a large altarpiece, and it has been connected with other predella panels showing scenes from the lives of John the Baptist and Saint James (now in international collections). They probably came from an altarpiece (now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) that Agnolo Gaddi made for the chapel dedicated to Saint James and the feast of Saint John the Baptist’s beheading in the Florentine church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Lorenzo Monaco was a pupil of Gaddi, so it’s plausible that he would have been put to work on the smaller predella panels.

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