Piero’s painting hangs in the National Gallery in London:
There is a beauty to the stillness of the figures, to the depth of this vision of heaven-on-earth, to the beautiful colours (look at the rainbow effect of the angel’s wing on the left-hand side, for example).
It is the moment when Jesus hears the words “You are my beloved”. John the Baptist hardly seems to dare to touch Jesus’ body, his approach is so reverent. The dove of the Spirit hovers as if it were a cloud and completely naturally part of the scene.
In the background someone else is getting ready to be baptised. It is the everyday action of getting undressed. Is this humanity in general? (we cannot see the face of an individual as it is hidden by his clothes).
Also in the background are the religious authorities of the day, in their fine robes (compare with Jesus’ near-naked body) and tall hats. They are dressed with the robes of status. But Jesus identifies with our basic humanity – “a poor, bare, forked animal” as Shakespeare describes us in King Lear.
The following sequence was inspired by this painting: