Preaching of John the Baptist
John is preaching before four of his followers. To right and left the scene is flanked by a tree with five pinecone-like fruits amid its interlaced branches. As described in the Gospels, the Baptist is wearing a tunic of camel’s hair and a leather girdle round his waist. It is possible that some words from his sermon, such as “Prepare the way of the Lord”, were inscribed on the large scroll that he holds in his hand.
This invitation to constant vigilance and the recall of other of the Baptist’s invocations are addressed not just to the persons who stand before him in the relief, but to all the members of the community.
The figures at the centre of the group are young men, since they are beardless and wear short tunics, whereas both the outer figures are clad in long tunics and are also characterized by their beards as older men.
The facial expressions, the details of the garments they wear, and their various postures, all help to enliven the composition, in spite of the isocephaly of the figures (all on the same level).