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Gallery Text

Saint Paul was one of the founders of the Catholic Church, and his writings codified many of its doctrines. Both he and Saint Peter were said to have visited Emperor Constantine in his dreams, inspiring his conversion. Rubens’s companion painting of Saint Peter is displayed nearby. The pairing of these saints — also the namesakes of Rubens himself — therefore emphasizes the authority of the Church.

His expression pensive, Paul holds the sword with which he was martyred. His cheeks are blotchy and flushed, and blue veins are visible at his temple. In the center, his beard occasions a passage of rapid brushwork that deploys a range of techniques. Colors are blended directly on the surface, creating a sense of softness and movement; paint is scraped away with the butt of a brush or another tool; and strokes of thick white impasto are interspersed with areas so thinly painted that the ground layer is left visible.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (Siegen, Westphalia 1577 - 1640 Antwerp, Belgium)
Saint Paul
Work Type
c. 1615
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on panel
65.5 x 48.5 cm (25 13/16 x 19 1/8 in.)
framed: 92.5 x 75 cm (36 7/16 x 29 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
?St. Donatus's Church, Bruges. Augustine Monastery of St. Florian, St. Florian, Austria (Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian) (until 1936) sold; to [Galerie Sankt Lucas, Vienna], sold; to [Dr. and Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann], (1936-1997) bequest; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1997.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Lore Heinemann in memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Johannes Hollnsteiner, Das Chorherrenstift St. Florian (Steyr, Austria, 1923), p. 41, repro.
  • William R. Valentiner, "Rubens' Paintings in America", The Art Quarterly (1946), vol. IX, p. 159, no. 53
  • Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held, Rubens in America, Pantheon Books (New York and Antwerp, 1947), p. 36, no. 64, pl. 48
  • Erik Larsen, Peter Paul Rubens, De Sikkel (Antwerp, 1952), p. 216, no. 34
  • Hans Vlieghe, Saints, I (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard), Phaidon (London, England and New York, NY, 1972), pp. 68-70, no. 52, repr. as fig. 94
  • James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), pp. 46-47, repr. p. 47

Exhibition History

  • Calming the Tempest with Peter Paul Rubens, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/22/2001 - 03/17/2002
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/08/2017

Related Works

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