Guido Reni received his first training in Bologna in the studio of the Carracci family of painters, who were at the opposite artistic pole from Caravaggio. While not averse to innovation, they rather adhered to classic Renaissance figural ideals and promoted the further development of the Baroque from this standpoint. In 1622, after spending time in Rome, Ravenna and Naples, Reni took over the workshop of his teachers, becoming Bologna’s leading painter. The Baptism of Christ was commissioned by the Flemish silversmith Jan Jacobs. Before it was even finished, it was taken to the Netherlands in 1623 and then sold to an English buyer several years later (before 1628). In 1649 it was acquired from the collection of the Duke of Buckingham for the imperial collection in Prague. Reni’s depiction of this key event is presented in a calm and balanced manner, with gentle light, reverent gestures and a discreet lack of direct eye contact. At first glance, there is little to distinguish the appearance of the two protagonists from one another. The body of St. John the Baptist is darker, while Christ is depicted in the moment of his baptism as humble and gentle. The Dove of the Holy Spirit and the beam of light emanating from it repeat the diagonal ofthe cross that St. John is holding in his left hand and focus complete attention on the baptismal act. Reni elegantly veils the rock on which St. John’s knee is resting – it makes hardly any visual impression at all. The glowing red garment at the centre may be an allusion to the Passion of Christ. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: The Baptism of Christ
  • Creator: Guido Reni
  • Creator Lifespan: 1575/1642
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Bologna
  • Creator Birth Place: Calvenzano
  • Date Created: 1622/1623
  • Style: Italian Baroque
  • Provenance: bought 1649
  • Physical Dimensions: w1865 x h2635 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 222
  • Artist Biography: "He had about him a certain air of grandeur and gravity that exceeded his station in life, which produced in everyone, even those of high rank, a hidden veneration and respect." So wrote an early biographer of Guido Reni. Reni first studied alongside Domenichino in a Flemish painter's studio in Bologna; ten years later he joined the Carracci academy to learn their classicizing style. In 1599 he entered the painters' guild. Reni created easel paintings and large decorations in Rome, Naples, Mantua, and Bologna, for patrons including Pope Paul V and Italy's top royalty. His graceful, classical style featured refined colors, delicate and varied flesh tones, soft modeling, and gentle emotion that owes a debt to Raphael's work. Reni the man was notoriously pious and eccentric. He disliked and feared women, whom he barred from his house even as servants, yet he was devoted to his mother and renowned for his heartfelt Madonnas. "The fear of God was always the first advice that Reni gave his pupils," his biographer wrote. After Lodovico Carracci's death in 1619, Reni's large studio dominated the Bolognese school, and his fame spread throughout Europe. Giovanni Lanfranco and Antonio Carracci were among his assistants. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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