Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Dutch, 1598–1657)
Oil on wood
21 1/2 x 29 5/8 in. (54.6 x 75.2 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1991 (1991.305)
This panel is by far one of the finest known works by Breenbergh, who settled in Amsterdam in the early 1630s after working in Rome for a decade. His superb drawings of the Colosseum served as models for the ruins here, which suggest the decline of a pagan empire as the Christian kingdom comes. The subject of John the Baptist preaching was depicted by many Dutch artists from the 1590s through the 1630s and probably referred to Protestant "hedge-preachers" who held clandestine services in the woods and fields while Spain suppressed religious freedom in the Netherlands.