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A man sits at a desk and holds a sword.

A light-skinned man with long hair and a long beard sits facing the viewer. He leans his right elbow on a brown desk holding a quill, several books, and scattered papers. In his right hand he holds the shiny brown handle of a long sword. His left hand grips a crumpled paper and rests on the arm of a brown wooden chair. The man wears green and red robes with a low neck. His eyes are open wide and his mouth is open. The light is concentrated on the man’s face and hands, leaving his back and desk in shadow.

Gallery Text

Vignon was trained in Paris, but traveled to Rome as a young artist. Like many other artists living in Rome, he was influenced by the naturalism and dramatic lighting of Caravaggio. That influence is apparent here in this half-length depiction of Saint Paul, who is pushed close to the picture plane and seems to address the viewer directly, creating a life-like presence.Saint Paul holds a sword, an attribute referring to his later martyrdom. The books, papers, and quill relate to his role as one of the authors of the New Testament and the many letters he penned. The small, intimate format of the painting suggests that it was commissioned for private devotional use, perhaps by an educated patron who identified with the scholarly activities of the saint. It is possible that this is the painting of Saint Paul men-tioned in the 1627 inventory of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, an early patron of Caravaggio who had an important collection of Caravaggesque paintings.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Claude Vignon, French (Tours 1593 - 1670 Paris)
Saint Paul
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
95 x 116.5 cm (37 3/8 x 45 7/8 in.)
framed: 106.8 x 129.4 x 8.3 cm (42 1/16 x 50 15/16 x 3 1/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Commissaires-Priseurs: Ader, Picard, Tajan, Drouot Montaigne, Paris, June 29, 1989, lot 5]. [Christie's, London, December 13, 1991, lot 222]. [1] [Christie's, London, April 23, 1993, lot 216], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 1993

[1] The painting was bought in at the 1991 sale.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Purchase through the generosity of an Anonymous Donor
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Important and Fine Old Master Pictures, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, December 13, 1991), lot no. 222
  • Paola Pacht Bassani, Claude Vignon (1593-1670), Arthena (Paris, 1992), p. 174, fig. 14, repr.
  • Important and Fine Old Master Pictures, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, April 23, 1993), p. 170, lot 216
  • Important Old Master Pictures, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, December 7, 2006), under lot 64
  • Matthias Waschek, Marjorie B. Cohn, Judith Mann, and Stephan Wolohojian, Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, 2008), p. 20, cat. no. 13
  • Gedi Sibony, Marjorie B. Cohn, and Emily Rauh Pulitzer, In the Still Epiphany, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO, 2012), p. 47, repr. [on display at Pulitzer Foundation]

Exhibition History

  • Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009
  • 32Q: 2400 French/Italian/Spanish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/28/2019 - 07/27/2021

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at