PERUGINO, Pietro
(b. 1450, Citta della Pieve, d. 1523, Perugia)

Baptism of Christ

c. 1482
Fresco, 335 x 540 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

The fresco is from the cycle of the life of Christ in the Sistine Chapel, it is located in the first compartment on the north wall. It was painted by Perugino and Pinturicchio, the latter being probably responsible for the landscape and minor scenes. There are two secondary scenes, Christ Preaching on the right and the Sermon of John the Baptist on the left.

The paintings were to be read in pairs, one from the left and one from the right. Thus the Baptism of Christ faces the Circumcision of Moses' son by Perugino and Pinturicchio.

A comparison of the pairs of scenes shows clearly that the principal concern was to show how the new religion of Christ was deeper and more spiritual than the Jewish religion. Thus the pair of frescoes showing the Baptism and the Circumcision emphasize how baptism - prefigured, according to Augustine and many of the Fathers of Church, by circumcision - represents a "spiritual circumcision."