A motley crowd of people has gathered around John the Baptist, who with outstretched arms announces the coming of the Messiah. His audience hangs on his every word – one of the young boys sitting on the boulder to the left even gestures to his friends to be quiet.
Pieter Lastman specialised in history pieces like this, which depicted stories from the Bible or classical antiquity. By placing the figures in the foreground in the sunlight and the figures in the middle ground in the shade, he created a sense of depth in the tightly-packed crowd.
Today Lastman is primarily known as Rembrandt’s most influential teacher. Rembrandt studied with Lastman from 1625-1626 in order to learn the principles of history painting.
W. Beuckman et al. sale, Amsterdam, 5 October 1875, no. 35; Galerie D’Eve et al. sale, Cologne (J.M. Heberle), 20 March 1899 (Lugt 57001), no. 78; H.I.A. Raedt van Oldenbarnevelt, The Hague; his sale, Amsterdam (Frederik Muller & Cie), 6 November 1900 (Lugt 58499), no. 65 (for 410 guilders to Duits); Duits Gallery, Amsterdam, 1900; Albert W. Goodrich, Chicago, in or before 1924; presented by him as a gift to Bishop James A. Griffin on the occasion of his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, 1924; bequeathed by Griffin as part of his entire estate to the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, 1948; Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, 1948-2018 (on loan to The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1998-2018, acc. no. 4.1998); purchased by the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation with the support of Mr H.B. van der Ven, 2018; on long-term loan from the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation, since 2018