Piero della Francesca
The Baptism of Christ is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1448-1450. It is housed in the National Gallery, London. The panel was commissioned by the Camaldolese abbey of Sansepolcro (Tuscany), originally part of a triptych.
Its dating to Piero della Francesca's early career is evidenced by the
strong relationship with the "light painting" of his master, Domenico Veneziano. It portrays Christ being baptised by John, his head surmounted by a dove
representing the Holy Spirit. Christ, John's hand, the bird and the
bowl form an axis which divides the painting in two symmetrical parts.
A second division is created by the tree on the left, which instead
divides it according to the golden ratio.
The three angels on the left wear different clothes and, in a
difference from the traditional iconography, are not supporting
Christ's garments, but are holding each other's hands. This would be an
allusion to the contemporary council of Florence (1439), whose goal was the unification of the Western and Eastern Churches. The Camaldolese Ambrogio Traversari
was in fact a strong supporter of the union. Such symbolism would be
also confirmed by the presence, behind the neophyte on the right, of
figures dressed in an oriental fashion.
Piero della Francesca was renowned in his times as an authority on
perspective and geometry: his attention to the theme is shown by John's
arm and leg, which form two angles of the same size.