Baptism of Christ
Material: Plaster and pigments
Dimensions (cm): H 231 x L 250
Provenance: Chaves, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Azinheira
Inventory No.: MAS PD 8 (related piece: MAS PD 9)
In this fresco depicting the Baptism, Jesus is in the River Jordan, flanked, on the riverbanks, by Saint John the Baptist who baptizes him and by an angel who holds his clothes. This scene is framed by a vast landscape with the winding river, the trees on the riverbanks and birds flying in the sky. The fresco includes a legend mentioning the date of its execution in 1535.
The restoration works that were carried out in the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Azinheira de Outeiro Seco by the Direção Geral dos Edifícios e dos Monumentos Nacionais started in 1937, the year the frescos were detached.
As mentioned by Paula Bessa, the detachment of this painting of big dimensions brought about its division into two parts – the so-called Eternal Father (MAS PD 9) and the Baptism of Christ – and the damage to the quality of the painting. That is to say, the two panels that exist nowadays (Eternal Father and Baptism of Christ) were a single painting God the Father being on top of the Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist.
The Baptism of Christ was part of a very vast group of mural paintings that covered almost entirely (and most of them still do) the lateral walls of the naves of the old parochial church of Nossa Senhora da Azinheira de Outeiro Seco, in Chaves. In fact, in several moments of the 16th century, the lateral walls of the nave of this church received successive programs of mural painting and they were probably all executed by the same workshop. This medium, being so effective, economical and long lasting, was also subject to rapid changes in taste or impositions of a liturgical or cultic order, which explains why there can be fresco cycles covered by others with an interval of less than thirty years.