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Karel Dujardin, The Conversion of Saint Paul

Key facts
Full title The Conversion of Saint Paul
Artist Karel Dujardin
Artist dates 1626 - 1678
Date made 1662
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 186.7 × 134.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs Violet Van der Elst, 1959
Inventory number NG6296
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Conversion of Saint Paul
Karel Dujardin

This large painting tells the dramatic New Testament story of Saint Paul at the moment of his conversion to Christianity. He had persecuted Christians in Jerusalem but was struck down on the road to Damascus by a vision of Christ, who asked him why. Paul was blinded, and Christ sent a man to restore his sight. He was then baptised and set out to preach Christ’s word.

Dujardin has captured the moment of terror when the skies split open and heaven was revealed. Paul’s horse rolls to the ground, taking him with it. Although the tumultuous grey clouds billow and the skies behind are a threatening yellow colour, Dujardin represents heaven with a chubby little cherub. He brandishes a torch of fire but also an olive branch, a symbol of peace – softening the message that has panicked the people below.

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