La Salle University Art Museum
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The Baptism of Christ

Bruges School

The Baptism of Christ, c. 1480

Oil on Panel


The city of Bruges, located in western Flanders, flourished as one of the greatest economic and artistic centers during the 13th to 15th centuries. Under the patronage of the Dukes of Burgundy and two highly influential women, Margaret of York and Mary of Burgundy, painters such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, flocked to the city, greatly enhancing the Bruges art scene. Bruges’s prime location on the coastline, along with a gradual decline in Antwerp, led to increased prosperity in Bruges, making it an appealing destination for artists. Although this painting of the Baptism of Christ has no identifiable artist, it is likely the piece came from Bruges during this golden age in its artistic history.

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

There is a vertical crack that extends up 2 ½” from the bottom edge at 4 ¼” from the left edge. There has been abrasion from previous cleanings. This is most apparent in the dark shadows of the tree leaves, near the top and right edges. Minor chips, scratches and abrasions can be seen scattered overall, beneath the varnish layers. Ultra violet light reveals inpainting on the flesh tones of both figure, in the loin cloth of Christ, and in the sky. The inpainting in the sky, and in the loincloth, matches very well. The inpainting in the flesh tones is too orange.

The bottom edge of the “frame” has areas of cupped cracking which are detaching. On the frame many spots of the gold paint finish and inscription have flaked away. There also appear to be some dark brown repaints in the upper left tree leaves. The finish varnish may be an early synthetic; it does not saturate the paint layer very well. Remnants of older natural resin are visible under UV light, especially near the lower edge. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed:

  • Consolidate flaking paint with a conservation quality adhesive.
  • Remove/reduce the poorly saturating varnish with appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce repaints.
  • Remove/reduce old residues of grime and varnish lodged in paint interstices.
  • Apply a conservation quality isolating varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finishing varnish overall.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Conserved in 2011-2012 With Support from the Stockman Family Foundation

(See Online Exhibition of Conservation Treatments)