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Saint John the Baptist

Popularization note

The young man with his arms crossed over his chest and his gaze raised to the light streaming from the heavens in the painting by an unknown European painter of the late 17th and early 18th centuries is indeed St John the Baptist, as evidenced by the accompanying attributes – a lamb and cross.

According to the New Testament, the Saint was born six months before Christ as the son of the Jewish priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. The miraculous birth of the firstborn was announced to Zacharias by Archangel Gabriel when he was lighting the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. The child at birth was given the name John, which meant ‘God is gracious’ in Hebrew.

At a relatively young age, probably after the death of his elderly parents, John took up the path of a hermit and anachorete in the Judean Desert. As we can see in the painting, the future Saint was in seclusion, immersed in prayer and contemplation, mortified his body, dressed modestly and fed exclusively on locusts and forest honey. When he reached the age of thirty he was called a prophet, and his main task became calling people to conversion and preparing the faithful for the coming of the Messiah. He said at the time: ‘He that followeth me is mightier than I: I am not worthy to carry His sandals’. In preaching his prophecy, Saint John also stressed the need for inner transformation through prayer and penance. The sign of this inner transformation was the symbolic baptism granted by the prophet with the gesture of immersing the faithful in the Jordan River, which we see flowing in the background of the painting.

Not long after meeting and baptising Jesus, John the Baptist was thrown into prison for openly criticising the immoral marriage of the tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Antipas. As the result of a plot by Herod's wife, Herodias, the prophet was executed by beheading at the age of thirty-two.

Information about the object

Information about this object

Author / creator

unknown (painter)


cały obiekt: height: 25,5 cm, width: 33 cm

Object type



oil technique


oil-based paint, sheet copper

Creation time / dating

1620 — 1650

Creation / finding place

powstanie: Flanders, a historic land (Europe)


The National Museum in Lublin

Identification number


Location / status

object is not displayed now

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