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Masucci, Agostino
The Baptism of Jesus
1750

The theme of the baptism of Jesus is described in three of the Gospels (Matthew 3:13–17, Mark 1:9–11 and Luke 3:21–22). John, the son of the priest Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, conducted a mission in the area of the Jordan, exhorting his listeners to repent from sinful conduct and baptizing them with water from the river to symbolize their cleansing from these sins. He also prophesied the arrival of a much greater prophet whom he identified as the Christ, or the Messiah. He identified Jesus as this figure on their first meeting and fulfilled Jesus’s request to be baptized. Here, Jesus stands with one foot in the river and one knee on the shore, while John turns toward him with a bowl in his right hand, about to pour water over his head. Jesus drapes himself with a loose white sheet, while John wears a rough mantle that evokes the reference in the Gospels to a hair shirt. The broad and loose handling, particularly in the bystanders to the left and right, indicates that this painting served as a compositional sketch, or bozzetto, for a finished composition, as does its small size.

 
Masucci, Agostino
Rome, Italy 1690–Rome, Italy 1768
The Baptism of Jesus
1750
Oil on canvas
height / width: 53.30 x 33.00 cm; 20.98 x 12.99 in.
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1985
28-205

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