• Baptism of Christ

Baptism of Christ

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Baptism of Christ
Artist: Piero della Francesca; Tempera painting on panel; Size: 167x116 cm; National Gallery, London.

Baptism of Christ is one of Piero's early works, perhaps painted before 1450, it was intended for the Badia Camaldolese at Sansepolcro. Here the influence of the Florentine painting of the thirties still appears very strong: an echo of Masaccio nudes in the Brancacci Chapel can be seen in the catechumen getting undressed in the background on the left, while the coloring harks back to Piero's master, Domenico Veneziano. The figures in the background, wearing tall hats in the Greek manner, are a reference to the Byzantine prelates and scholars who had come to Italy for the Council that agreed on a reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in 1439. The fact that the picture was painted for a Camaldolensian abbey renders this reference more credible, since one of the principal proponents of the accord with the Eastern Church was Ambrogio Traversari, general of the Camaldolensian Order. The balance of the composition, with the tree marking the golden section of the panel, seems to have already been influenced by Leon Battista Alberti's treatise on painting, although it may be the fruit of a parallel meditation on the same themes by Piero.

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