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Rembrandt, An Elderly Man as Saint Paul

Key facts
Full title An Elderly Man as Saint Paul
Artist Rembrandt
Artist dates 1606 - 1669
Date made probably 1659
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 102 × 85.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Colborne, 1854
Inventory number NG243
Location Room 22
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Elderly Man as Saint Paul

Rembrandt’s pensive Saint Paul belongs to a series of half-length pictures of religious figures that the artist painted in the late 1650s and early 1660s. The dark picture is devoid of unnecessary details, but the saint’s traditional attributes are just about visible: an open book sits on the table in front of him and a sword leans on the wall behind him.

A roundel in the upper left depicts an angel interrupting Abraham, who is about to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s order. This important Old Testament episode was favoured by Rembrandt, who painted and etched it before including it here. For Saint Paul, the sacrifice was an example of faith in God. In Protestant theology, Saint Paul was considered the most authoritative interpreter of the Gospel – a possible reason for Rembrandt’s fascination with the apostle.

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