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Eustache Le Sueur, 'Saint Paul preaching at Ephesus', 1649

Key facts
Full title Saint Paul preaching at Ephesus
Artist Eustache Le Sueur
Artist dates 1616 - 1655
Date made 1649
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 100.8 × 84.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1959
Inventory number NG6299
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Paul preaching at Ephesus
Eustache Le Sueur

Saint Paul, who is dressed in a red cloak, directs the men in the foreground to burn a pile of books that represent the pagan tradition. He has travelled to the city of Ephesus (now part of Turkey) to encourage the Jews and Greeks to convert to Christianity, and his success is shown by the figures praying and confessing. This subject relates to an episode in the Acts of Apostles, written by Saint Luke, who accompanied Paul on his missions.

This is a preliminary sketch for a much larger version of this subject given to the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris by the city’s goldsmiths in 1649. Every year the goldsmiths commissioned a painting measuring four metres high, which was placed at the entrance of the building so it could be seen by those passing by. Le Sueur was competing against others for this commission, and he would have shown this small-scale sketch to the patrons to show what the full-size painting would look like.

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