The John the Baptist series was probably painted c. 1655 for the monastery of San Leandro in Murillo's home town of Seville (where it remained until 1812), and it marks an important step in the development of Murillo's mature style. 'The Baptism of Christ' already demonstrates mastery of brushwork, reticent colouring and delicately blurred faces, but the forms are not yet so delicately linked together, and the astringent, profoundly serious atmosphere has none of the sweetness of many of his later works, of which the Berlin gallery owned two significant examples until 1945. Murillo clearly surpasses an altar-panel painted by Rubens in Mechelen, which is known to us from drawings and to which Murillo's composition owes a great deal, particularly in the naturalness of the pictorial structure with the two life-size figures. A sprinkling of written quotations emphasizes the didactic quality of the picture, which was reduced in height and breadth by about 20 centimetres, which rendered incomplete the proclamation of God the Father. After the reduction the artist's signature was placed somewhat higher.