Lucas Cranach the Elder: The Birth of John the Baptist

The Birth of John the Baptist: Lucas Cranach the Elder

In The Birth of John the Baptist, and early Lucas Cranach the Elder work, the newborn John the Baptist is being washed by maids in contemporary dress in a fine decorative and subtly colored composition.

Behind is St. Anne lying on the bed. The washing of John in this scene looks forward to his baptizing of Christ himself in the River Jordan. It was painted in 1518 when the artist was 46 years of age.

The picture shows an image of a baby John being bathed by two women while his Mother Elizabeth is being tended to by two other women holding a plate and a spoon. It is a religious painting that lauded the biblical story of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was a messenger of God who was promised to an elderly couple by an angel. When the angel told Zachariah, he disbelieved in his heart. This caused him to become mute and deaf until his son was born. Immediately after he wrote the name John on a tablet and presented it at his son’s naming ceremony, he opened his mouth and prophesied his son’s destiny. John the Baptist grew up and taught people about the coming of Jesus and performed Baptisms.

Jesus came to visit him and baptized him. During John’s Baptism, the heavens opened up and the holy spirit descended as a Dove.

John ended up being beheaded by the order of King Herod. Herod did not want to kill John but was obligated to do so by his wife.

King Herod was so captivated by his wife’s dancing that he asked her to make any request she pleased. After speaking to her mother, the young girl asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. John did not try to resist as he had fulfilled his purpose as the messenger of Jesus Christ.

Lucas Cranach the elder is considered one of the Old Masters of art history.

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s The Birth of John the Baptist is in Skokloster Castle in Sweden.

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