Baptism of Christ
By: PIERO Della FRANCESCA
The painting named “Baptism of Christ” is one of the most famous paintings by Piero Della Francesca and hangs in the National Gallery in London. It was inspired from the gospel of John 1:29‐34. Piero Francesca was an Italian artist of the early renaissance period. He was also a good mathematician and many of his paintings use geometric forms. The following geometric forms exist in the painting and were posted on http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit13/unit13.html:
* A microtheme , baptism bowl near center of picture.
* Severely foreshortened dove at center of circle and top of square. Lends a mystical
* Frozen, static quality found in square pictures, or in round pictures.
* The tree trunk is at 1/3 the width; the dove is at 1/3 the height.
* Piero's hometown of Sansopolcro can be seen in the distance, between Christ and
* John's arm and Christ's loincloth continue the line of the circle.
* Square and circle overlap, like the circles in a vesica, with Christ in area common
to both. If the circle is equated with heaven, and the square with earth, here Christ is
shown as mediator between the two. Here Piero has combined squaring the circle
and the Vesica in one painting
* The recurring motif of the three graces.
* Figures are simplified, cubist, geometric. Piero has been called "the first cubist."
Even though I do not know what all of these geometric forms mean, the number of geometric forms in this one painting shows the attention to detail and planning that Piero Francesca must have needed to create this masterpiece. This piece of art does not strike me as controversial, however the work could be viewed as extremely controversial when you look at the color of their skin and especially the color of the angels skin.
On the left side of the painting is a depiction of three angels at the baptism of Jesus. While this is not specifically stated in the gospel of John they are still placed in this painting. This could be a way to show the spirit of God being present at this event and how God was the one who put these events into place. The controversial part is the pale white skin color of the angels and their blonde hair. This representation of angels is very geared to white superiority and may be consistent with the renaissance period.
The other thing that I think is very cool about this piece of art is the geometric form. I stated earlier the forms that scholars say have been used but I did not touch on why the artist would want to use geometric forms. I believe that the geometric forms bring not only a sense of perfection to a picture but also a sense of spiritual clarity in its precision.
According to www.moodbook.com Piero Della Francesca, “Wrote books on solid geometry and on perspective, and his works reflect these interests. Francesca's solid, rounded figures are derived from Masaccio, while from Domenico he absorbed a predilection for delicate colors and scenes bathed in cool, clear daylight. To these influences he added an innate sense of order and clarity. He conceived of the human figure as a volume in space, and the outlines of his subjects have the grace, abstraction, and precision of geometric drawings. Almost all of Piero's works are religious in nature ‐ primarily altarpieces and church frescoes in which he presents scenes of astonishing beauty, with silent, stately figures fixed in clear, crystalline space. There are always large areas of white or near‐white in his works, the skies are big, light and sunny. The monumental quality of his figures, the perspectival construction of the pictorial space and the spiritual calm of his compositions led, throughout Italy, to the final surmounting of the Gothic style and prepared the way for the artistic achievements of High Renaissance in Italy.”
In the painting the dove above Jesus is said to represent the Holy Spirit and that in the original placement of the painting there was an object located above it that was supposed to represent the third part of the trinity (Father/God). Jesus himself is dressed very plain and appears to be very normal. The positioning of his hands appears to represent him praying to the Father. Overall, this painting began when I first saw it as a simple painting with no real interest and after my research I discovered just how much work went into this masterpiece and the many meanings behind inside of it.