In the New Testament, all the gospel accounts (e.g. Matthew 3: 1-12) describe Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Jordan valley to large crowds from Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside. However, the Flemish-style landscape setting here is more reminiscent of Northern Europe than of the Near East of biblical times. Saint John the Baptist is the small figure in the centre background.
This subject was often treated by Netherlandish painters of the 16th and 17th centuries and its popularity may reflect the contemporary debate about open-air sermons by Calvinist preachers.
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