According to the Gospel of Saint Luke, after the death of Christ, two of his disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus met a stranger and invited him to join them. At supper, he blessed bread and broke it to give to the disciples. They saw immediately that the stranger was Christ risen from the dead. Hendrick Terbrugghen masterfully and subtly conveys the very moment the awed disciples recognize Jesus and share a tense look across the table.
Terbrugghen spent ten years in Italy (1604–1614), bringing back to his native Utrecht, Holland, a style with dramatic contrasts of light and shade inspired by the enormously influential Italian artist Caravaggio (1571–1610). In this earliest known picture following his return, Terbrugghen based his subject on a painting by Caravaggio, without the dramatic gestures in his Italian model. Terbrugghen became the leading Dutch painter of religious themes in the Caravaggesque style.