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The Conversion Of Saul

Painting, 1520-th , 177.5×128.5 cm

Description of the artwork «The Conversion Of Saul»

"Conversion Of Saul" one of the most mystical and expressive paintings of Parmigianino. Although for a long time, for several centuries, the authorship of paintings attributed to the Italian Niccolo del abbate. To restore historical justice helped a series of preparatory sketches. Before 1978 the figures were in the private collection of count Antoine Seilern, and after his death according to the will together with a valuable collection of paintings Rubens, Degasand Renoir went to the British Museum and the Courtauld Gallery.

Thanks to these informative outline you can see how original multi-plan evolved in the final, already unmistakable silhouette. Although there is also a view that Parmigianino saw the composition of the figure of the horse falling with his rider one of the Vatican frescoes of Raphael.

Of the persecutors – followers

The episode depicted in the painting, Parmigianino, described in the book of the New Testament "acts of the apostles." Before the fateful event Saul was a militant Pharisee, a fierce persecutor of the first Christians. Approximately a year later after the death and resurrection of Christ, he followed in his murderous Affairs in Damascus.

Suddenly from the sky spilled a divine light and heard a voice: "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?" After falling from his horse, scared half to death a Jew asked: "Who are you, Lord?" What was the reply: "I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (acts. 9:4-9). After this conversation, Saul was blind and did not eat or drink for three days until Ananias, one of the seventy disciples of Christ healed him and are not baptized with the name Paul.

From this point the Apostle Paul becomes one of the most zealous preachers of the Christian faith. His Message later formed a significant part of the New Testament formed the basis of Christian doctrine in General. It is the hero of the picture belong to Parmigianino's famous words about love, one of the most succinct definitions ever written: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; love does not envy; love does not boast, is not proud, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes, hopes, endures all things. Love never fails, though prophecies will cease, and tongues will cease, and knowledge abolished" (1 Cor.13:4-8).

Dark horse

Naturally, such a significant religious story repeatedly reflected in Renaissance painting. But the vast majority of cases, multi-figured scene is depicted: it is transferred by confusion, panic and chaos in the ranks of the satellites of Saul (1, 2, 3), but the viewer has no opportunity to focus on the experiences of the main character, in fact his rebirth. With the exception of Caravaggio, who, like Parmigianino, puts into focus the Saul and his horse.

Painting Parmigianino the conversion of Saul stands apart because, perhaps, no one else, either before or after him managed so expressive to convey the enormity of the transformation taking place with immediate fallen prostrate Pharisee. All the space around him like trembles and shimmers. Anxious, almost looks phantasmagorical landscape in the background. From Saul's robe faintly, barely visible glow, like a reflection of his internal transition from confusion to enlightenment.

A curious figure of a horse, which constitutes a large part of the canvas. His eyes seem almost human, and sent straight into the viewer's eyes. And the eyes of Saul himself drawn rather to the horse than to the light that breaks through the clouds and personify the voice of God.

Traditionally in this scene depicted Christ, seated on a cloud. So it was on the original sketches of Parmigianino. But in the end he abandoned this idea. We can assume that the white horse, Saul dropped from the height of his pride, is the symbol of the risen Christ who appeared to the future Apostle. In the revelation of John the Theologian describes His second coming: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and one sitting on it called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war" (Rev. 19:11). Hence could be inspired by Parmigianino.

In this sense, it is clear why the image of the animal dominates the space of the picture and why Saul stretches out his hand to him, as if in a desperate gesture for help. Anyway, in a picturesque embodiment of Parmigianino this remarkable episode invariably evokes a powerful emotional response, allowing you to fully experience the greatness and extraordinary nature of the moment, sharing the life of a once cruel Jew "before" and "after".

Author: Natalia Azarenka
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Religious scene

Style of art: Mannerism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1520-th

Size: 177.5×128.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 9 selections