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Garofalo, Vision of Saint Augustine

Key facts
Full title Vision of Saint Augustine
Artist Garofalo
Artist dates about 1481 - 1559
Date made about 1520-35
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 64.5 × 81.9 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG81
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Vision of Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine (about 354–430) was an early Christian theologian whose writings, which included De Trinitate (About the Trinity), profoundly influenced Western Christianity and philosophy. This painting represents his vision in which he saw a child trying to empty the sea into a hole dug in the sand. When Augustine told him that this was impossible, the child, a messenger from God, replied that Augustine’s attempt to explain the Trinity was an equally impossible task. Garofalo has made the child perched on a mound of sand Christ himself, his head crowned with a halo of rays of light.

Garofalo’s depiction of this episode is unusual in that it also includes the holy family, Saint Catherine and Saint Stephen (on the shore in the middle distance). Saints Catherine and Stephen were probably saints to whom the person who commissioned the painting was especially devoted.

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