BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Conversion of St Paul; PARMIGIANINO; c. 1552; oil on canvas; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Web Gallery of Art







What you can see in this picture……

A man falls or has just fallen from his horse. A dazzling light comes down from the heaven and it is the blinding that it provokes, and not the horse’s brutal movement, that explains the fall.

Paul is listening to the voice that comes from heaven and reproaches him with persecuting Christians.

Saul now blind has just converted himself on the way to Damascus.



...and in other pictures

Paul is a soldier on his way to Damascus; that is why he is supposed to go on horseback though the text says nothing about it. The horse is present only to show the intensity of the dazzling and the consequent blinding of the horseman, now unable to get up. He is at the same time stupefied and attentive to the words he can hear.

Other soldiers often accompany him and watch this fall with astonishment. They sometimes form a real army in the middle of which Paul’s fall is lost or, on the contrary, the hero can be alone to be better put into prominence.





The Conversion of St Paul;
 PARMIGIANINO; c. 1552; oil on canvas; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Web Gallery of Art



The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9 

Saul, who persecutes the Christians, asks to go to Damascus to arrest a few of them.

  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined around him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him : "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" - And he said:  "Who are you, Lord? " And the Lord said: "I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks"  And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drink.

God asks Ananius, a Christian from Damascus, to go to the house where Saul lives.   


And Ananias went his way, and entered the house; and putting his hands on him said: "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received his sight at once and arose, and was baptized ; And when he had received food, he was strengthened. (The Acts of the Apostles 9:3-18)



The narrative of a conversion which is as sudden as it is complete and which turns the Jewish persecutor Saul into Christian Paul who soon proclaims himself the "apostle" of the gentiles” (= pagans).










The Conversion of St Paul; PARMIGIANINO; c. 1552; oil on canvas; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Web Gallery of Art



Each of us sees the context he wishes.



The Conversion of St Paul; Lucas CRANACH the younger; c. 1545

CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum



The Conversion of St Paul; Giovanni BELLINI; 1472; oil on canvas; Musei Civici, Pesaro, Italy.

Web Gallery of Art



In spite of the enormous contrasts between these two works, the grandiose manifestation of God is quite present in both cases and the horse is absent or secondary.



The Conversion of St Paul; MICHELANGELO Buonarroti; c. 1542; fresco; Cappella Paolina; Pontifical Palace, Vatican.

Web Gallery of Art



The Conversion of St Paul; Fra ANGELICO; c. 1430; missal illumination

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists



God throws over Paul but, whereas Tintoretto paints a whole army, Caravaggio prefers a more personal relationship.



The Conversion on the Road to Damascus; CARAVAGGIO; 1660; oil on canvas; Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum



The Conversion of St Paul; Jacopo TINTORETTO; c. 1545; oil on canvas; National Gallery, Washington.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C




Paul is the disciple of Jesus about whom we have the largest amount of precise and reliable information.

He has actually left some epistles or letters that allow us to better know the man and his ideas.

Paul, who has not known Christ in person, is called “the apostle of the Gentiles”, the latter word meaning “pagans”. Actually, it was he who had wished to convert to Christ men of all beliefs and of all cultures without submitting them to the precepts of the Law of Moses: circumcision, food interdicts… though he himself was a pious and Pharisaic Jew. Having detached Christianity from Judaism, he has been said to be its true founder.

Associated to Peter in the same religious feast on June 29th, he has only a minor importance in popular culture because he is probably thought to be too intellectual.



A saying about him has been kept: “to see the light”, which is to be understood as “to suddenly change ideas after a sort of conversion or illumination”.





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008