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Salvator Rosa: Landscape with the Baptism of Christ

Salvator Rosa’s panoramic view of Christ’s baptism is not only a beautiful illustration of the Savior’s humility but a stunning example of 17th-century landscape painting.

Salvator Rosa

Landscape with the Baptism of Christ

Salvator Rosa

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Object of the Month: July 2016

Landscape with the Baptism of Christ

Oil on canvas, c. 1655–60

Salvator Rosa

Neapolitan, 1615–1673

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The Landscape with the Baptism of Christ represents an innovative, naturalistic school of landscape painting developed in seventeenth-century Naples by Salvator Rosa and Micco Spadaro. Rosa, the creator of this work, is said to have used oil on paper to sketch his landscapes directly from nature.  This preparatory technique may well account for the lush details evident in Rosa’s rocky, river scene. The meticulous realism of his looming wilderness also serves as a visual metaphor of Christ’s humility. Here the Creator is willingly enveloped by His creation.

The Baptism (which came into the museum collection in 1955) was first brought from Italy to America in 1836. Art scholar Ian Kennedy notes: “At that time the 18th century taste for the picturesque still remained in fashion in the new world and found ready acceptance in a young country engaged in conquering the wilderness.” Although aesthetic emphases and stylistic techniques have varied widely since that time, the transcendent allure of capturing nature’s beauty inspired by Baroque landscape painters like Rosa remains.

David Clayton in The Way of Beauty observes, “The baroque landscape is based upon an assumption that mankind is the greatest of God’s creatures and has a uniquely privileged position within it. The rest of creation is made by God, so that we might know Him through it.  Creation’s beauty calls us to itself and then beyond, to the Creator. Man is made to apprehend the beauty of creation.”

Donnalynn Hess, Director of Education


For more on David Clayton’s book,  The Way of Beauty, visit


Published in 2016