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Giovanni Baronzio
The Baptism of Christ

c. 1335
tempera on panel
painted surface: 46.3 × 49 cm (18 1/4 × 19 5/16 in)
Possibly commissioned as part of the high altarpiece of a church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in Emilia Romagna or in the Marche, Italy. Probably Monsignor Gabriele Laureani [d. 1849], Rome; Guilio Sterbini [d. 1911], Rome, by 1874; [1] Pasini collection, Rome, by 1924; [2] (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence); purchased June 1933 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; [3] gift 1939 to NGA.

[1] David Farabulini (La pittura antica e moderna e la Galleria del cav. Giulio Sterbini, Rome, 1874: 29) cites “varie storie della vita del Battista” in the Sterbini collection, while Adolfo Venturi (La Galleria Sterbini in Roma, Rome, 1906), in publishing The Baptism of Christ, then forming part of that collection, comments that two additional Stories of the Saint, the “San Giovanni che parla a due seguaci” (i.e., the Baptist Interrogated by the Pharisees) and “S. Giovanni tra i Padri del Limbo” (i.e., the Baptist’s Descent into Limbo) also formed part of this collection. Farabulini further explains (1874, 13) that Sterbini had acquired paintings for his collection in Rome from Monsignor Gabriele Laureani, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, who was engaged in acquiring paintings by “maestri primitivi” for the Vatican’s collections. Since the works later gathered in the Pinacoteca Vaticana also include a panel from this series, namely the Young Baptist Being Led into the Wilderness by an Angel (no. 40185), there are good grounds for assuming that it had arrived in Rome together with the fragments acquired by Sterbini. On the Sterbini collection see also L. Morozzi, "Da Lasinio a Sterbini. Primitivi in una raccolta romana di secondo Ottocento," AEIMNEΣTOΣ. Miscellanea di studi per Mauro Cristofani, ed. by B. Adembri, II, Florence, 2006: 908-916. The supposition, quite unfounded, that NGA 1939.1.131 actually comes from the Pinacoteca Vaticana, no doubt derives from these circumstances (see Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools XIII - XV century, London, 1966: 69, and Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols., Washington, D.C., 1979: 1:316, citing Bernard Berenson’s notes on the reverse of a photograph of the painting, in the Kress Foundation files).
[2] Lionello Venturi (Pitture italiane in America, Milan, 1931) was the last to report the painting’s presence in the Pasini collection. Federico Zeri wrote to Robert O. Parks that Pasini was the dealer who sold the entire Sterbini collection; Parks in turn passed this information on to John Walker (letter, Parks to Walker, 27 December 1949, in NGA curatorial files).
[3] The bill of sale for a large number of paintings, including this one, is dated 28 June 1933 (copy in NGA curatorial files).
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