IL CERANO (GIOVANNI BATTISTA CRESPI)
The Baptism of Christ
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1527
203 × 255 cm
Crespi, who also worked for Cardinal Carlo Borromeo of Milan (a protagonist of the Counter-Reformation) was among the leading Late Mannerist painters. Signed on a slip of paper at the bottom right and dated 1601, this scene shows John the Baptist with the Jacob’s staff – his attribute – in his left hand, pouring baptismal water over the head of Christ in the River Jordan. He is aided by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove; two angels watch from the background. The elongated limbs and the twist of the figures’ poses in complex movement are typical of this “era of artificiality”, as is the sharp lighting which lends the colours and the entire atmosphere a surreal, theatrical quality.