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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Unknown artist, possibly French, active in Rome
Saint Paul Writing His Epistles
c. 1618–1620
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 39 1/8 x 52 3/8 in. (99.4 x 133 cm)
Credit Line

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
Accession Number

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 the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, 1991.