The Conversion of Saint Paul

The painting is unusual, though by no means unique, as a Dutch painting of the later 17th century representing a dramatic religious theme. Such subjects had been treated by Rembrandt and, in the earlier years of the century, by the Dutch followers of Caravaggio, active mainly in Utrecht. The story of the conversion of Saint Paul is told in the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles 9: 3-7). Paul is at the lower right. In the sky at the upper left cherubs hold a torch and an olive branch.

The composition is based on a print by Antonio Tempesta, whose work was widely circulated in the Netherlands and influenced a number of Dutch artists, among them Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol. The size of the painting and the fact that its subject is relatively rare in Dutch art of the time suggest that it was specially commissioned. The patron may have been a member of the family of the first recorded owner, Jan François d'Orvielle. There is another work by the artist of similar dimensions showing 'Saint Paul healing the Sick at Lystra' (now Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), which is said to have formerly borne the date 1663.

Key facts

Artist dates
1626 - 1678
Full title
The Conversion of Saint Paul
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
186.7 x 134.6 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit
Presented by Mrs Violet Van der Elst, 1959
Inventory number
Location in Gallery