Antwerp painter Abraham Janssens was a contemporary and competitor of Rubens. This particular work, which depicts a tender Virgin with her Child and a young Saint John the Baptist has only recently been attributed to him. The juxtaposition of the sad-looking Mary and the lively and playful Baby Jesus is especially striking, while the simplicity, liveliness and claire-obscure effects are reminiscent of Italian revolutionary Caravaggio. This is hardly surprising as Janssens was in Rome when Caravaggio was painting there.
A legend about a neglected statue of Mother Mary that miraculously moved from Antwerp to this singular 15th-century church without a tower made the site instantly famous. Originally constructed on the initiative of the crossbowmen’s guild, it was the place where Mary of Hungary, sister to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was baptised and Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands Margaret of Austria was wont to pray.