Baptism of Christ
early 1450s
Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, 1403-1482)
On View

The Baptism of Christ belongs to a narrative cycle depicting the life of Saint John the Baptist. The vertical proportions of this and the other eleven surviving panels suggest that they may have formed part of a custodia, or cupboard that contained a sacred relic. By the late nineteenth century, the ensemble had been separated; the panels can now be found in museums across the United States and Europe.

The Simon panel’s composition is an abstracted and hierarchical arrangement. Christ stands in the Jordan river, its banks extending slightly beyond him. The plane of water and land and the row of attendant angels incline steeply toward the golden rays of light, above which God the Father gives his blessing. Giovanni di Paolo’s love of detail and pattern is everywhere evident. His tight, linear drawing creates a tension that, in combination with the sacred narrative, presents a scene of magic and mystery.


  • Artist Name: Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, 1403-1482)
  • Title: Baptism of Christ
  • Date: early 1450s
  • Medium: Tempera and gold leaf on panel
  • Dimensions: 30 x 13-3/8 in. (76.2 x 34.0 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1973.07.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

(Sale, Paris, Palais Galliera, 27 March 1971, lot 16, ill., as Sienese School, 15th century, Le baptême du Christ, to);
[David Carrit, Artemis, through;]
[E. V. Thaw and Co., New York; sold 1973 to;]
The Norton Simon Foundation.

[on loan]

  • Princeton University Art Museum, 1973 to

[on loan]

  • Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 1980-11-18 to 1981-05-20
  • Carli, Enzo, Pantheon, p. 177
  • Kanter, Laurence, The Burlington Magazine, NG 5451-54 p. 107
  • Lloyd, Christopher, Italian Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, fig 4. pp. 121-127
  • Meiss, Millard, The Burlington Magazine, p. 73
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, p. 20
  • Zeeland, S. van; and P. Cruysmans, L'Oeil, p. 45
  • Glueck, Grace, New York Times, pp. 23, 24
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, Giovanni di Paolo 1403-1483, 1938, pp. 80-91
  • Brandi, Cesare, Giovanni di Paolo, 1947, no. 62 pp. 44-45, 81-82
  • Meiss, Millard, Sts. Elijah and John the Baptist by Pietro Lorenzetti/The Baptism by Giovanni di Paolo 1973, 1973, fig. 6
  • Artemis 72-73: Consolidated Report, 1973, pp. 20-23
  • Green, Maureen, Realidade, 1974, pp. 45, 46
  • Lloyd, Christopher, A Catalogue of the Earlier Italian Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, 1977, pl. 63 pp. 84-86
  • Green, Maureen, Smithsonian, 1981, pp. 38, 43
  • Pieper, Paul, Die deutschen, niederländischen und italienischen Tafelbinder bis um 1530, 1986, pp. 532-534
  • Panders, Janneke, Akt, 1988, fig. 8 pp. 26-38
  • Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420-1500, 1989, under no. 37
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 17
  • Gordon, Dillian, The Fifteenth Century Italian Paintings, 2001, fig. 27 pp. 98-99
  • Boskovitis, Miklos, Brown, David Alan, et al., Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century, 2003, pp. 324, 331
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 927 p. 352
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Branchini Madonna Giovanni di Paolo 1427

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