The striking contrast between light and shadow, together with the simplicity of the half-length figure of Saint Paul, reveal this composition’s debt to Caravaggio, whose radical paintings were enormously influential in the early 17th century. This painting is three compositions superimposed on a single canvas. Underneath the image of Saint Paul Writing His Epistles is a Christ Crowned with Thorns. The head of Christ is now visible to the naked eye, upside down in the table. X-rays indicate that the bottom layer of paint shows an artist at his easel (possibly a self-portrait). The layering of compositions may be the result of the young artist's poverty, forcing him to reuse the canvas of apparently unsuccessful paintings.


Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Artist
Probably Valentin de Boulogne, French, 1591–1632, active Italy
Alternately attributed to Nicolas Tournier, French (worked in Italy), 1590–c. 1639
Title
Saint Paul Writing His Epistles
Date
c. 1618–1620
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
39 1/8 × 52 3/8 in. (99.4 × 133 cm)
Credit Line

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
215 BLAFFER GALLERIES
Accession Number
BF.1991.4
Classification
Painting
Provenance

J. Seymour-Maynard, 16 Prince Edward Mansions, Pembridge Square, London; [Christie’s, London, January 29, 1954, lot 54 (as by Orazio Gentileschi)]; acquired by Schiff, 1954; Richard C. Pritchard, Kingston Langley, Chippenham, Wiltshire, England; by descent, descendants of Pritchard; [Christie’s, London, July 5, 1991, lot 68 (as by Tournier)]; purchased by Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, 1991.