Paul's Conversion

Caravaggio, Conversion of St. Paul, 1600-1601. Oil on cypress wood, Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome.

The Cerasi Chapel is one of the side chapels of the transept in Santa Maria del Popolo Church in Rome. Monsignor Cerasi, who owned the patronage rights of the chapel, commissioned Caravaggio to paint the two side paintings for the room. This painting is now in a museum because Cerasi rejected it. Caravaggio painted Paul’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus to replace it.

This is a detail of the bottom half of the Conversion of St. Paul. It is very large—go look at a full version of it, it will be worth it. Many people feel this piece is a much better painting than its replacement. It is a dramatic snapshot of the moment Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus in a great light and struck him blind. Saul has fallen from his horse. His clothes are disheveled and his colleague seems to wave his pike in confusion. The lighting spotlights Paul on the ground as he transforms from Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle.


Changing one's beliefs and self-identity from one religion to another.

Support (especially monetary) that is bestowed from one person or organization to another, or a system of such support. Patronage typically flows from the more powerful to the less powerful in society.

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