The Baptism of Christ, Giovanni Battista Crespi called Il Cerano
Giovanni Battista Crespi called Il Cerano
The Baptism of Christ
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Giovanni Battista Crespi called Il Cerano

The Baptism of Christ, 1601

209.0 x 265.7 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
Acquired in 1917 (?) as a gift from Louise Mayer, née Henle, in memory of Ludo Mayer
On display


About the Work

The monumentality of this impressive painting is contradicted by the movement of the figures. Christ humbly receives the baptism from St John, while the Holy Spirit – the dove – testifies that he is the Son of God. Between them, an attending angel gazes boldly out at the viewer. Crespi executed this work in Milan, perhaps for Renato Borromeo, a kinsman of the reformist bishops Carlo and Federico Borromeo. A specifically Milanese artistic taste is reflected in the rocky landscape, where the clear waters of the River Jordan pour down into a valley reminiscent of Flemish examples.

About the Donation

The widow of Councillor of Commerce Ludo Mayer (1845–1917) donated this painting to the Städel in memory of her husband. In 1870 Mayer, a native of Offenbach, became a partner in the Mayer & Feistmann leather factory, a position also held by his nephew Robert von Hirsch after him. For his home town, he generously sponsored a new building for the Technische Lehranstalten (technical schools), the interior of the city library in the Isenburger Schloss, and the Ernst Ludwig Fountain (‘Ludo Mayer Fountain’), which still exists today. He was declared an honorary citizen of the town in 1915.


  • 01:29
    Basic information
  • 01:21
    Focus on religion

Work Data

Basic Information

The Baptism of Christ
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Bezeichnet unten rechts auf dem Zettel: 1601, il 12 aple / GB [ligiert] Crespi faec / D[omi]ne libera me à labiis iniquis

Property and Acquisition

Picture Copyright
© Städel Museum
Acquired in 1917 (?) as a gift from Louise Mayer, née Henle, in memory of Ludo Mayer

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Illustrated Passage
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, Matthäus 3,13-17
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, Markus 1,9-11
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, Lukas 3,21-22
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, Johannes 1,29-34


  • 73C12 John the Baptist baptizing
  • 73C121(+3) baptism of Christ in the river Jordan: John the Baptist pouring out water on Christ's head: the Holy Ghost descends (+ angel(s))

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