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The Baptism of Christ

Joachim Patinir1510/1520

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Patinier was the first Netherlandish painter to specialise in the depiction of landscapes, although he always added figures to them. Albrecht Dürer had made his acquaintance during a trip to the Netherlands and mentioned him in 1521 in his diary as “a good landscape painter”, thus providing the first documented use of this term in German north of the Alps. Patinier’s landscapes are serious and strict in their composition, never realistic. They are characterised by bizarre, sometimes even geologically impossible cliff formations and cool coloration. The Baptism of Christ is one of the major works by the Antwerp painter, who sometimes seems to have been influenced by Hieronymus Bosch and also adapted compositions by Gerard David to his purposes. Here he observes the tradition of an axial structure, with God the Father in the clouds, the Dove of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of Christ. In the middle distance we see a sermon by John the Baptist. Christ is listening from a distance, still wearing the blue garment that he has laid aside in the foreground. The religious scene and the depiction of a magnificent landscape seem to balance one another – an innovation that influenced the entire development of Flemish landscape painting. Its immediate influence was on Patinier’s first successor, Herri met de Bles, who also worked in Antwerp. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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