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The Baptism of Christ (The Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altar c. 1485/1500)

Today is All Saint’s Day, a holiday which has been largely subsumed by Halloween in the United States.  However All Saint’s Day used to be a major holiday in the middle ages—a day to celebrate the most devout Christian believers who were granted magical abilities by their austerities, beatific visions, or martyrdom.  This seems like a prime opportunity to feature some more gothic art, so above, kindly find the best available online photo of The Baptism of Christ by the mysterious Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece.  This anonymous master was (probably) trained in the Netherlands and then emigrated to Cologne in about 1480.

The painting is currently located at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  The National Gallery’s online art resource nicely describes the painting as follows:

In this unusual scene, fourteen saints participate as witnesses at the Baptism of Christ. All the saints are vividly characterized by costume and attributes. They include the giant Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his shoulders, Catherine of Alexandria with sword and wheel of her martyrdom, Augustine holding his heart pierced by the arrow of divine love, Mary Magdalene with her ointment jar, and the chivalrous George kneeling on his dragon. The gold background, the luminescent cloud on which the saints float, and the unrealistic island setting for the Baptism itself all impart a visionary quality to the scene.

 I found it difficult to find a high quality JPEG of the painting so here are some bonus close-ups to give you an idea of the meticulous details which give such character to gothic painting.




Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

November 2010