The painting belongs to the period immediately prior to his trip to Rome in circa 1524, and can be very closely compared to other paintings executed during the first half of the 1520s: in particular the predellas in the Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, illustrating episodes from the life of Saint Achatius.1 The scene showing Saint Achatius being baptised is a particularly relevant comparison for the man removing his boot lower right appears in both compositions. As La France notes however, it is not just the repeated figure but also the similarly bright palette and the shared, liberal use of motifs from Lucas van Leyden that suggest they were painted within a short time of each other; in the present Baptism, the row of trees with onlookers beneath them are borrowed from Lucas’s own Baptism (Bartsch 40), while the timber-framed house in the central distance features in both his Baptism and his Holy Family (Bartsch 85). Bachiacca's constant references to northern prints suggests more than a mere acquaintance with the most up-to-date advanced practices then current in Florence.
The man removing his boot is not the only motif repeated in another work by the artist. The figure standing with his legs apart in the left foreground recurs in the Borghese Imprisonment of Simeon, though his stockings are green and slashed in the present example where they are plain white in the other.2 The background landscape is, furthermore, a more elaborate version of that in the Laurentian Library illumination depicting Saints Cosmas and Damian.3 Bachiacca also borrowed motifs from his master Perugino; the figures of Christ and St. John are here transcribed from Perugino’s own treatment of the subject in a predella in Chicago.4 The Chicago predella also provides the two angels behind St. John, though Bachiacca has placed the standing angel behind the one that kneels, where in the Perugino predella they are set apart.
Bacchiacca treated the subject in a later panel (now transferred to canvas), which employs a similar mise-en-scène with the supporting figures similarly arranged in groups to the left and right, behind and in front of the protagonists.5
Note on Provenance
Dr. Ludwig Mond (1839-1909), a German industrialist who settled in Britain in the 1870s, bequeathed forty-two paintings to the National Gallery on his death in 1909. Among them are some of the greatest works in the collection, including Raphael's Crucifixion, Titian's Virgin suckling the infant Christ and Lucas Cranach the Elder's The Close of the Silver Age.
1. La France, under Literature, 2008, pp. 164–68, cat. nos. 24–26, all reproduced plate XIV.
2. Ibid., pp. 146–47, cat. no. 9, reproduced plate 9.
3. Ibid., pp. 156–57, cat. no. 18, reproduced plate X.
4. V. Garibaldi, Perugino, 2004, pp. 215–18, fig. 184.
5. La France 2008, pp. 180–81, cat. no. 34, reproduced plate XXV.
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