This is certainly the largest and one of the earliest surviving paintings by Vermeer. It is also his only known work of a biblical subject. St Luke’s Gospel tells of Christ’s visit to the sisters’ house. Christ praised Mary’s willingness to sit and listen to his teachings, unlike Martha who was preoccupied with housekeeping. The strong play of shadow and light, the characterisation of the figures and broad handling of paint were probably inspired by the work of artists from Utrecht, who in turn were influenced by Caravaggio’s art. Given the unusual size and subject-matter it is likely that the painting was a specific commission.