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Pier Francesco Sacchi, Saint Paul Writing

Key facts
Full title Saint Paul Writing
Artist Pier Francesco Sacchi
Artist dates about 1485 - 1528
Date made 1520s
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 106 × 81.9 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3944
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Paul Writing
Pier Francesco Sacchi

Saint Paul is depicted with reed pen poised, gazing at the crucified Christ for inspiration. The Greek text he is writing is from his first Epistle to the Corinthians (13: 4): ‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up’. His attribute, the sword by which he was martyred, rests against the table.

Every crease and wrinkle on Saint Paul’s forehead and around his eyes and each bone and tendon in his neck has been carefully recorded, revealing not only Sacchi’s acute powers of observation but also his understanding of anatomy. His interest in antiquity is reflected in the relief on the lectern and in the faces in profile on the base of the Crucifix. His detailed, sharply delineated, naturalistic – almost hyperreal – style reveals a regard for Northern European painting, while the sources for his figures and other influences are derived from Lombardy, Liguria and Flanders.

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