Algardi's sculpture plays on its intended recipient's given name: Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist).
When Innocent X (Giovanni Battista Pamphili, ruled 1644–55) became pope, Alessandro Algardi endeavored to obtain his patronage. This bronze Baptism of Christ is a casting from the molds used for an original silver sculpture that Algardi presented to the new pope to gain his support in 1646. The composition depicts an important scene in the life of Christ. On the right is John the Baptist, who pours water onto Jesus's head from a shell. As Christ bows his head to be baptized, a little angel holds the edge of his cloak. Algardi worked carefully to make this piece exciting from a number of points of view. Its dramatic emphasis shifts, depending on the viewer's vantage point.
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