Pieter Bruegel the Elder ca. 1520 – 1569

The Preaching of St. John

oil on panel (95 × 161 cm) — 1566 Museum Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Pieter Bruegel the Elder biography

This work is linked to Matthew 3:7

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Bruegel would often use biblical themes to depict village-life as he knew it. This is another fine example. The viewer's attention is first drawn to the figures in the foreground, then to the river in the background and only then to John the Baptist, wearing a garment of camel hair.

The audience is remarkably diverse: there are peasants, burghers and clergymen, and besides Flemings other nations such as Turks and Chinese are present. Perhaps Bruegel wanted to emphasize that the message of the Baptist, and that of Jesus, was meant for all.

The painting was created when the Iconoclast raged in the Low Countries and Protestant clergymen were touring the country, stopping in places to call for Reformation. This painting may have been inspired by one such meeting.

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