Alexander Ivanov 1806 – 1858

The Appearance of Christ before the People

oil on canvas (60 × 90 cm) — 1837-1857 Museum Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

This work is linked to Matthew 3:13

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John the Baptist (foreground, with staff) baptizes a group of faithful in the river Jordan. Among them a party of Pharisees, members of a Jewish sect. John admonishes the Pharisees, and says: 'He that cometh after me [...] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.' At exactly that moment Jesus approaches, wishing to be baptized by John. John, obviously recognizing something in Jesus, does not want to baptize him at first, arguing that he should be baptized by Jesus instead. But Jesus insists. After the baptism, the heavens open for him, according to Matthew.

Ivanov worked on this canvass for twenty years. This is why it is considered his most important work. True recognition only came after his death – the work was ill received at first. Of the hundreds of pre-studies, 300 survive, among which true pearls.

Also called The Apparition of Christ to the People.

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