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Giacomo Panizzati, The Conversion of Saul

Key facts
Full title The Conversion of Saul
Artist Giacomo Panizzati
Artist dates probably active 1524; died 1540
Date made about 1535-40
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 58.1 × 69.8 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG73
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Conversion of Saul
Giacomo Panizzati

The conversion of the Pharisee Saul is described in the Acts of the Apostles (9: 1–9). As the Jewish conservative Saul was approaching Damascus to persecute disciples of Jesus, a light from heaven suddenly blinded him, making him fall to the earth. ‘Saul, Saul,’ Jesus called, ‘why do you persecute me?’

Saul is the figure in blue wearing gilded metal armour – he has fallen from his horse at the sight of Christ in the clouds. In the distance we see the next part of the story as the stupefied Saul and his horse are led towards Damascus by his men. There he recovered his sight and, as the Apostle Paul, joined the Christians whom he had set out to persecute.

The shields, armour and horse trappings are very highly decorated in antique style and reveal a knowledge of ancient and contemporary gems. Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, had a particular enthusiasm for engraved gems, and this painting may have been commissioned by or intended for him.

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