The baptism of Jesus (Terracotta altarpiece)

Dated around 1480, the Baptism of Jesus by Andrea della Robbia and his workshop is a curved panel situated in the counter-façade of the church. The central scene represents Jesus in an upright position with his hips covered by a drapery immersed up to his ankles in the transparent water of the River Jordan. On the right, a kneeling Saint John the Baptist is pouring water onto Jesus' head from a bowl while on the left, two kneeling angels are holding a cloth. Above them, God the Father is entering the scene with open arms among the clouds, in the centre of which is depicted the dove of the Holy Spirit. A strip which is rolled up at the ends and partially hidden passes under the hands of the Eternal and bears the inscription "HIC EST FILIUS MEUS DILECTUS IQUO M.", reference to the Gospel of Matthew 3:16-17: “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Andrea della Robbia's taste for pictorial effects and brilliance of colour is manifested in the extraordinary sweetness of the faces and the delicacy of the modelling, making the figures emerge from the landscape that hosts them. The large arched band that frames the central scene has a decorative "ovoli" motif towards the outer edge and a "palmette" decoration on the inner one. The arch is surmounted in the centre by an ornamental element consisting of two rosettes that hold a bunch of oak leaves. The rose has a symbolic meaning that stands for martyrdom towards purity, while the oak leaves symbolize the solidity and spiritual strength that comes from Baptism.