Large Roman ruins loom in the background, against which excited figures engage in a brutal murder. In the shadowy right foreground, Saint Stephen kneels in prayer; behind him a shirtless man takes aim with a large rock. All around, people scurry to pick up rocks to hurl at the defenseless saint. A small boy helps out by bringing stones to the adults. Bartholomeus Breenberg depicted the martyrdom of the early Christian deacon Stephen, the first Christian martyr. In the left foreground, a man turns to face the viewer and points at the grisly scene before him. Scholars initially thought this was a self-portrait of the artist; they later identified this man as Paul who, before his conversion to Christianity, assisted at Stephen's stoning by guarding the clothes of the executioners. When Breenberg made this painting, landscape as a genre, and the Dutch Italianate landscape tradition that Breenberg helped develop, was gaining popularity but was not fully accepted as a justifiable subject by itself. Thus, the figures or narrative were often the excuse for painting a landscape.