Brueghel's Preaching of Saint John the Baptist

Brueghel's Preaching of Saint John the Baptist
Brueghel's Preaching of Saint John the Baptist
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This is an oil painting on a panel of considerable dimensions (95 x 160 cm), made by the Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel the Elder in the year 1566, and which in currently on display at Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary.

In principle, the scene that this painting shows us is simply an episode of the biblical stories in which Saint John the Baptist, as the forerunner of Jesus Christ, is proclaiming the figure of the Messiah. However, the picture must be understood within its political and historical context. In other words, you have to frame this creation in a place like the Netherlands in the middle of the 16th century, when Luther's Reformation and Protestantism were taking on a force that would end up being unstoppable.

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Brueghel's Preaching of Saint John the Baptist

Therefore, the scene can be seen in another way, and it would be a snapshot of the many sermons that were seen in the streets of Flanders at that time. According to the chronicles, it is known that there were many preachers, defenders of the ideas of Lutero, who stationed themselves on the outskirts of the cities and gathered their faithful and followers there, since that was the way to circumvent the Spanish authorities, very Catholic, and who governed these territories under the reign of Felipe II.

In this way, Brueghel when painting this scene he doesn't focus so much on the factreligious, in which we see how the Baptist points to Jesus, but what interests him is the representation of his people and his fellow citizens, something that is a very common characteristic to many of his other works such as The fight between don Carnal and Doña Cuaresma or The Flemish Proverbs.

In this way, he presents us with a crowd attending the sermon, and there with great detail, which is also very common in Flemish costumbrista painting, we can identify members of all social strata. And even some figures with turbans are seen, that is, people who have come from far away and from other cultures. Which is not gratuitous on Brueghel's part, since with it he intends to capture the universality of the message, which reaches all people, regardless of their social status or origin.

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