Today (13 January) is the traditional Feast of the Baptism of Christ, though it is now typically observed on the first Sunday after Epiphany (in 2016 it was celebrated on January 10 ).

By Anne Leader

Today (13 January) is the traditional Feast of the Baptism of Christ, though it is now typically observed on the first Sunday after Epiphany (in 2016 it was celebrated on January 10). All four Gospels recount that John the Baptist preached penitence in the wilds of Judea and baptized repentant sinners in the Jordan river. Jesus sought out John for baptism — a seemingly odd request considering that he was born without Original Sin, the primary reason for Christian baptism. Though he protested, John did baptize Jesus and proclaimed him to be the Son of God. A frequent image in Italian art, the Baptism of Christ follows scripture showing Jesus standing in the river and “the Sprit of God descending like a dove.” (Mt. 3:16)

Representations of baptism date to the 3rd century and survive in a variety of media, including fresco, ivory, mosaic, panel painting, and bronze.

Baptism of Christ, mosaic, 6th century, Arian Baptistery, Ravenna

Piero della Francesca, Baptism, egg tempera on panel, late 1440s, London, National Gallery; photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Andrea del Verrocchio, Baptism, tempera on panel, c. 1475–85, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi; some alterations possibly made by Leonardo da Vinci; photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Bacchiacca, Baptism of Christ, c. 1520, gum tempera on wood, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

Giotto di Bondone, Baptism of Christ, 1304-06, fresco, Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Andrea Pisano, Baptism of Christ, 1336, bronze, Baptistery, Florence

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Baptism of Christ, 1403-25, bronze, Baptistery, Florence

Francesco Mocchi, The Baptism of Christ, 1634, marble, Palazzo Braschi, Rome

Baptism (of Christ?), 3rd century CE, mural, Catacomb of St. Calixtus, Rome

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