Cesare Nebbia and Associates
The Baptism of Christ
West façade, Orvieto Cathedral
Signed and dated by Nebbia (see
the full-resolution image)
The three figures in the foreground are additions to the basic iconography of the Baptism of Christ. Possibly the man catching the fat fish alludes to the new vitality in the water resulting from Jesus' being bathed in it. Patristic commentary emphasizes that Jesus undertook baptism not to benefit himself but to sanctify the water and make it efficacious, through Christian baptism, for the salvation of souls. The well-muscled man on the left is preparing himself for that baptism by removing his shoe, a trope also seen in
Ghirlandaio's 1486 fresco of the Baptism.
The main scene follows the traditional iconography, with John on one side of Jesus pouring from a silver dish, Jesus praying in the middle and wearing a perizoma like the one we see on crucifixes, and an angel on the other side holding his outer garment. Above, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove from the Father, who is attended by angels in a cloud representing Heaven.
More of the Baptism of Christ
Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.