Skip to main content
Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos
Diego Velázquez
/

On the Greek island of Patmos, Saint John the Evangelist had a vision of the Woman of the Apocalypse, which he recorded in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Here he sits with an oversized book in his lap, his quill pen poised, and looks towards the tiny illuminated female figure hovering in the clouds above him.

She is accompanied by a dragon – the devil – ready, according to Saint John, to devour her baby as soon as it is born. She is given wings, faintly visible behind her, to escape.

This woman is often understood to be the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. The vision is associated with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary was herself conceived without sin. This painting is paired with The Immaculate Conception, which shows the Virgin standing on a moon and surrounded by stars, like in the vision we see here. Both are among Velázquez’s earliest known works.

Key facts
Artist Diego Velázquez
Artist dates 1599 - 1660
Full title Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos
Series Two Paintings for the Shod Carmelites, Seville
Date made 1618-19
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 135.5 x 102.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a special grant and contributions from The Pilgrim Trust and the Art Fund, 1956
Inventory number NG6264
Location in Gallery Room 30
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

Two Paintings for the Shod Carmelites, Seville

/

Velázquez painted these two works as companion pieces during his early career in Seville, in around 1618. They were perhaps intended to promote the recent celebrations in the city of a papal decree defending the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin.

We don't know who commissioned The Immaculate Conception and Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos, but they are first recorded in 1800 in the chapter house of the Convent of the Shod Carmelite Order in Seville.

Saint John and the Virgin both appear in the foreground, surrounded by objects identifying who they are, strongly illuminated from the top left. The colours of the Virgin’s clothes are echoed in reverse in Saint John’s, and both paintings demonstrate Velázquez’s skill in conveying a strong contrast between light and shade.

;