The Baptism of Jesus is narrated by the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke: At that time Jesus of Galilee went to the Jordan of John to be baptised by him. But John wanted to prevent it, saying: “I need to be baptised by you and you come to me?”. But Jesus said to him: “Let it pass for now, as we should thus fulfil all righteousness”. Then John agreed. As soon as he was baptised, Jesus came out of the water: and behold, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descend as a dove and come upon him. And a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3, 13-17); At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. And, on leaving the water he saw the heavens open and the Spirit come down upon him like a dove. And he heard a voice from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased” (Mark 1, 9-11); When all the people were baptised and while Jesus, also baptised, was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily appearance, like a dove, and there was a voice from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased” (Luke 3, 21-22).
The commission for one of the most notable places for local painting and the comparison with her father’s canvas painted six years previously and placed in front of his daughter’s work, stimulated Sirani to the extent that she painted her masterpiece here. Compared to Giovan Andrea’s composed classicism, the female artist proposes in her large oil painting (450 x 350 cm) a lively, complex Baroque style scene in its compositional and formal conception, full of characters revolving around the central figures of St. John the Baptist and Christ placed on the waters of the River Jordan. This animated solution seems to take inspiration from an observation of domestic, everyday life and develops very feminine sensitivity, giving the work an intimate character very different from the official tone of the paternal classicism. In this work she reintroduces a neo-Venetian style with a choice of colours featuring strong luministic effects, in which the painting technique is expressed with increasingly free and vibrant thick strokes within a soft passage of paint. This is well emphasised in the cape of the character with the turban, in which the brush strokes overlap the white lead, giving an intense and bright chromatic effect. At the composition level there is the intention to suggest spatial depth, by scaling the groups of figures in the crowded composition by moving them backwards, which also in this case denotes attention to Baroque style compositional suggestions. In the large Baptism of Christ canvas (dimensions 450 x 350 cm) Elisabetta Sirani put her signature in capital letters at the central base: “ELISABETTA SIRANI F. MDCLVIII”. During the recent restoration another smaller signature emerged under this inscription, probably the original one placed by the painter. The restoration also showed changes of mind given by the fact that the artist made her adjustments directly on the canvas in this case, despite her many preparatory drawings.