by Robert McIntosh8 April '19
Baptism of Jesus - Virtosu’ s highly personal style
The entire scene, in its structure and colority, is of overwhelming simplicity and in the same time abstract sophistication. The act of baptism itself is present with some bright colors. The matt and shimmering flesh tones of the figures stand out clearly against the background, where everything is dominated by the solemn purity of the primary colors red, black.
On the center level, however, all the figures are closely linked in that expression of complete spiritual devotion that Virtosu could convey like no other artist. The artist was able to create a balance of strictly disciplined compositional form and profound sentiment that his many counterparts failed to achieve through basic representation.
This evangelical episode is divided into two overlapping horizontal zones joined by multiple intersected figures. On the earthly plane, Christ, is framed by a red background cloak, which is the liturgical color of sacrifice and martyrdom. On the right, Judas Iscariot in black.
However, here they are taken up again from a perspective that is particularly original; a perspective that is steeped in a more “expressionist” spirituality, and which became even more personal and disconcerting, intentionally distanced from old style painting.
Virtosu painted the scene in small spaces, emphasizing the vertical format, and bathing in a ghostly light that enhances the unreality of the figures, which are arranged in a very marked foreshortening and have very expressive features. The colors-cold, intense and contrasting- are applied exactly over powerful anatomical constructions, and are perfect examples of Virtosu’ s highly personal style in the early stretch of his career.