The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Baptism of Christ

Object Details


The Baptism of Christ


Simon Bening (Flemish, about 1483 - 1561)




Bruges, Belgium (Place Created)


about 1525–1530


Tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig IX 19 (83.ML.115), fol. 58v


Leaf: 16.8 × 11.4 cm (6 5/8 × 4 1/2 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

As described in Matthew's Gospel, the heavens opened at Christ's baptism and the spirit of God descended as a dove. While still including accidental details of nature such as the irregular formations of rock and the reflections in the water, Simon Bening used elements of the story to create a precisely planned geometric composition. The stream of water flowing from John the Baptist's hand, the central ray emanating from the dove, and the tall thin tree at the right form a series of defining verticals within the miniature. The reeds in the bottom right corner curve in a way that echoes the circular ripples in the water around Christ and the curving banks of the river. The golden water, which reflects the light of the Holy Ghost, reveals Bening's great sensitivity as a naturalistic artist treating a sacred theme.