Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Saint John the Baptist sits on a rock in a wooded landscape. He is preaching to a group of people in Oriental dress: according to the Gospel of Luke (3: 1–17), John spent some years living as a hermit in the wilderness, preaching repentance and baptising people in the river Jordan. His followers thought he might be the Messiah, but he told them that he was merely the precursor of Jesus: here he points to the slightly ghost-like figure of Jesus walking in the background.

This small painting is characteristic of Mola, who specialised in classicising scenes drawn from mythology, the Bible and poetry, set in landscapes inspired by north Italian art. Its naturalism, lighting and tightly cropped composition show the strong influence of Guercino.

The National Gallery, London



Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness


about 1640


Oil on canvas


H 54 x W 70 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831

Work type



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