Zeitblom Bartholomaeus, Baptism of Christ

1,495 - 1,500; oil on panel
cm. 137 x 71,5

Inventory: AE02085AFC
Provenance: Credito di Venezia e del Rio de la Plata, (until 31 December 1967); Istituto Bancario Italiano Collection (until 19 December 1991).
Exibition: 2016, Milano, Palazzo Lombardia, UOMO. La vita di Cristo in 33 immagini , senza catalogo; 2018, Da Tiepolo a Richter, l'Europa che dialoga , Bruxelles, Cinquantenarie Museum (24 maggio - 30 settembre), senza catalogo; 2019-2020, Pavia, n. 2.1

Nothing is known about the early history of the work, which arrived in the Cariplo Collection with its incorporation of the IBI Collection. It was published in the catalogue of 1998 and attributed to Bartholomaeus Zeitblom, a Swabian artist active in southern Germany in the late 15th and early 16th century.

The attribution proves acceptable. The author is an interesting artist who marked the period of transition from a still Gothic to an early Renaissance style displaying greater attention to the anatomical definition of the figures and less sharply etched profiles. Albeit within a particular compositional approach, this shows such similarities with the vocabulary of Flemish art and Italian Humanism as to prompt the 19th-century writer Justinus Kerner to describe Zeitblom as a “German Leonardo”. It is in fact possible to argue that the painter paved the way for the German Renaissance and in some respects for the achievements of Dürer and Grünewald.

The description by Alessandro Rovetta points out the close links with important works by the painter such as the altarpieces of Eschach and Heerberg in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, and the panels in the Louvre. This evidence suggests that the depiction of the Baptism was painted in the closing years of the 15th century.

The work has lost its possibly arched upper section, which is thought to have contained an image of God the Father on the basis of a scroll with the surviving letters PLACUI, interpreted as the ending of the last word of the citation Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui (“This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”, Matthew 3, 17).

Sources:Archivio Fondazione Cariplo, Pratiche ex IBI, faldone 1 / 2, opere d’arte IBI 2048 – 2140.


Alessandro Rovetta, Battesimo di Cristo, in Maria Luisa Gatti Perer, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. Dal Classico al Neoclassico, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1998, n. 60, pp. 156-158;
Elena Lissoni e Lucia Molino, a cura di , L’acqua che tocchi. Leonardo, anima e materia, catalogo della mostra, Pavia, Cripta romanica della Cattedrale, 12 ottobre 2019 - 12 gennaio 2020, Silvana editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo, 2019, n. 2.1, pp. 46-47

Domenico Sedini
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