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
  • Lloyd, Christopher, A Catalogue of the Earlier Italian Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum,pl. 63 pp. 84-86
  • Rotter, Malena, Unsichtbares sichtbar machen. Strategien zur Darstellung des überirdischen Raumes in der italienischen Malerei des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts,2021, p.276
  • Artemis 72-73: Consolidated Report, pp. 20-23
  • Lloyd, Christopher, Italian Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago,fig 4. pp. 121-127
  • Art Investment Guide, p. 31
  • Meiss, Millard, Sts. Elijah and John the Baptist by Pietro Lorenzetti/The Baptism by Giovanni di Paolo 1973,fig. 6
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum,1989, p. 17
  • Zeeland, S. van; and P. Cruysmans, L'Oeil, p. 45
  • Meiss, Millard, The Burlington Magazine, p. 73
  • Gordon, Dillian, The Fifteenth Century Italian Paintings,fig. 27 pp. 98-99
  • Pieper, Paul, Die deutschen, niederländischen und italienischen Tafelbinder bis um 1530, pp. 532-534
  • Green, Maureen, Smithsonian, pp. 38, 43
  • Boskovitis, Miklos, Brown, David Alan, et al., Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century, pp. 324, 331
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, Giovanni di Paolo 1403-1483, pp. 80-91
  • Panders, Janneke, Akt,fig. 8 pp. 26-38
  • Green, Maureen, Realidade, pp. 45, 46
  • Kanter, Laurence, The Burlington Magazine,NG 5451-54 p. 107
  • Brandi, Cesare, Giovanni di Paolo,no. 62 pp. 44-45, 81-82
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, p. 20
  • Glueck, Grace, New York Times, pp. 23, 24
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best,2010, cat. 927 p. 352
  • Carli, Enzo, Pantheon, p. 177
  • Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420-1500,under no. 37
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Branchini Madonna Giovanni di Paolo 1427

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