© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Monumental in scale and exuberant in execution, this drawing by Jan Muller embodies the energy and ambition of Dutch mannerism at the height of its success. Following the popular mannerist formula of inverting the focus of the composition, Muller relegates the Baptism of Christ—the apparent subject of this drawing—to the background of the scene. The figures of Christ and Saint John the Baptist are rendered in a quick, sketchy manner and are illuminated by a stream of heavenly light. Of much greater interest to the artist is the group of extraordinarily robust male nudes that populates the foreground. Beyond offering a dazzling display of virility, the figures’ tense, muscular bodies and pious, upward-gazing faces charge the scene with emotional intensity, suggesting that they, too, have been transformed by the momentous event taking place in the background.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jan Harmensz. Muller, Dutch (Amsterdam 1571 - 1628 Amsterdam)
Baptism of Christ
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Primitive Mankind Enlightened through the Baptism of Christ
Work Type
c. 1590-1594
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Brown ink and brown wash and white opaque watercolor on prepared paper
36 × 28.9 cm (14 3/16 × 11 3/8 in.)
[Richard Feigen, New York, 1972]. [Arnoldi-Livie, Munich], sold; to George Abrams, Boston, 2007
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Promised Gift
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Exhibition History

Mirror of Holland: Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Part 1, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 11/20/2010 - 03/06/2011

The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/09/2017 - 01/14/2018

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

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