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François de Nomé, Fantastic Ruins with Saint Augustine and the Child

Key facts
Full title Fantastic Ruins with Saint Augustine and the Child
Artist François de Nomé
Artist dates about 1593 - after 1630
Date made 1623
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 45.7 × 65.7 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir Philip Sassoon Bt, GBE, through the Art Fund, 1923.
Inventory number NG3811
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Fantastic Ruins with Saint Augustine and the Child
François de Nomé

Buildings crumble and collapse along a seashore harshly illuminated against a dark sky. These unstable structures are probably assembled from elements of ancient and modern architecture familiar to the artist. The domed building beside a Gothic church-like tower is based on the ancient Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, near Rome. Stone statues lie in pieces, stand in niches or decorate an altar or sarcophagus.

At the bottom of the picture are two tiny figures. They are Saint Augustine and the child, whose legend provides the theme for this dream-like scene of fantasy architecture. Augustine saw a small child trying to empty all the water out of the sea using a seashell. He told the child it was impossible, and the child replied that it was equally impossible for Augustine to explain the mysteries of the Trinity, God’s three roles as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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