St. Paul (c.1619 – c.1620) by Diego Velazquez

St. Paul - Diego Velazquez - c.1619 - c.1620

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Artwork Information

TitleSt. Paul
ArtistDiego Velazquez
Datec.1619 - c.1620
Dimensions78 x 99 cm
Art MovementBaroque
Current LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), Barcelona, Spain

About St. Paul

The artwork “St. Paul” by Diego Velazquez, a seminal figure in Western art, was believed to have been created between circa 1619 and 1620. This oil on canvas piece is an embodiment of the Baroque art movement, characterized by dramatic expression and intense realism. The religious painting measures 78 x 99 cm and is part of the collections of both the Museo del Prado in Madrid and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

The artwork depicts a thoughtful representation of St. Paul, one of Christianity’s most important figures. Immediately noticeable is the intense realism with which Velazquez has captured the saint’s character; his face bears the marks of age and experience, with deep lines and a wise, yet distant gaze. The use of chiaroscuro—a technique where strong contrasts between light and dark areas are used to model three-dimensional forms—enhances the dramatic effect and adds a profound depth to the painting, which is quite typical of the Baroque style’s emphasis on emotional depth and the intensity of the moment.

St. Paul’s garb is rendered with textural richness, from the soft, cascading folds of his cloak to the more austere attire underneath, suggesting modesty befitting a saint. Velazquez has also paid considerable attention to the details of St. Paul’s beard and hair, with strokes of white and grey highlighting his venerable appearance. The word “PAVLVS” inscribed in the background solidifies the identity of the subject and adds a historical dimension. Through mastery of painting techniques and a striking composition, the artwork serves as a powerful spiritual contemplation.

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