Saint Paul and his companions were shipwrecked during a terrifying storm on the Mediterranean island of Malta. The event is described (Acts of the Apostles 28: 2-3) as having taken place during the day but Elsheimer has chosen to show the scene at night. The islanders lit fires to warm the survivors. A viper emerged from some sticks Paul placed on a fire and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature they thought the saint was a murderer who was receiving justice. But when he shook off the snake and they saw that he had suffered no harm, they were convinced that he was a god.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1578 - 1610
Full title
Saint Paul on Malta
Date made
about 1600
Medium and support
Oil on copper
Dimensions
16.8 x 21.3 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by Walter Burns through The Art Fund, 1920
Inventory number
NG3535
Location in Gallery