Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers

Object Details


Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers


Antoine Caron (French, 1521 - 1599)






Oil on panel

Object Number:



92.7 × 72.1 cm (36 1/2 × 28 3/8 in.)

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In 1571 a dramatic solar eclipse occurred: this event probably served as the subject of this painting by Antoine Caron. He painted it at the court of Catherine de Medici, queen of France, who, like many rulers of the time, was extremely superstitious and fascinated by astronomical phenomena, often seeing eclipses and natural disasters as foreboding omens.

In the painting, astronomers gather in a town square beneath the shadowed sun. A bearded Greek philosopher in the foreground looks at the sky and points to an armillary sphere on the ground. Next to him, the central figure, Dionysius the Areopagite, holds a book, points to the sky, and looks at the celestial globe carried by the figure running up the steps at the right. Dionysius preaches the Christian message of salvation to pagan Greek philosophers. A putto, seated on the steps between a square and straight edge, writes on a tablet, recording the event.

In the background on the right, a statue representing Urania, the muse of Astronomy, stands on a twisted column. Near the statue, figures run and point towards the heavens while seeking cover. Above, an ominous red sun glows and lightning streaks the stormy, cloud-filled sky.

- 1947

J.H. Price (London, England) [sold, Price sale, Christie's, London, January 17, 1947, lot 121, to Anthony Frederick Blunt.]

1947 - 1962

Sir Anthony Frederick Blunt, British, 1907 - 1983 (London, England), by gift to John Gaskin, 1962.

1962 - 1985

John Gaskin (London, England), sold through Adrian Ward-Jackson Ltd. (London, England) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the XVIIth Century (June 20 to July 31, 1947)
  • Wildenstein & Co. (London), June 20 to July 31, 1947
Exhibition of Landscape in French Art (December 10, 1949 to March 5, 1950)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), December 10, 1949 to March 5, 1950
Fontainebleau e la Maniera Italiana (July 26 to October 12, 1952)
  • Museo di Palazzo Reale (Naples), July 26 to October 12, 1952
De triomf van het manierisme: de Europese stijl van Michelangelo tot El Greco (July 1 to October 16, 1955)
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), July 1 to October 16, 1955
Between Renaissance and Baroque: European Art 1520-1600 (March 10 to April 6, 1965)
  • Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester), March 10 to April 6, 1965
L'Ecole de Fontainebleau (October 17, 1972 to January 15, 1973)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (Paris), October 17, 1972 to January 15, 1973

Christie, Manson, & Woods, London. Catalogue of Old Pictures: The Property of the Late Mrs. Braund. January 17, 1947, p. 10, lot 121.

A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the XVIIth Century in Aid of the Merchant Navy Comforts Service, exh. cat. (London: Wildenstein and Co., 1947), p. 10, no. 8.

Ehrmann, Jean. "Antoine Caron. Tableaux du 'Carrousel à l'éléphant' et des 'Astronomes étudiant une éclipse.'" Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire de l'art français, 1949 (1950), p. 27.

Catalogue of an Exhibition of Landscape in French Art, 1550-1900, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1949), p. 3, no. 9.

Ehrmann, Jean. "Antoine Caron." Burlington Magazine 92, no. 563 (February 1950), pp. 34-36, fig. 1.

Rosenblum, Robert. "The Paintings of Antoine Caron." Marsyas 6 (1950-53), pp. 4-5, pl. II: 2.

Adhémar, Jean. "Antoine Caron et son influence." Médecine de France 20 (1951), p. 35.

Bologna, Ferdinando, et al., eds. Fontainebleau e la maniera italiana, exh. cat. (Naples: Sansoni, 1952), p. 31, no. 52, pl. 50.

Blunt, Anthony. Art and Architecture in France 1500 to 1700 (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1953), p. 89.

Adhémar, Jean. Le Dessin français au XVIe siècle (Lausanne: Editions Mermod, 1954), p. 114.

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Ehrmann, Jean. Antoine Caron: Peintre à la cour des Valois 1521-1599 (Geneva and Lille: Librairie Droz and Librairie Giard, 1955), pp. 22-24, 44, pl. VIII.

Europa, Raad van, ed. De Triomf van het Maniërisme: de Europese stijl van Michelangelo tot El Greco, exh. cat. (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1955), p. 54, no. 37, pl. 17.

Adhémar, Jean. French Drawing of the XVI Century. Edouard Mermod-Lausanne, trans. (New York: Vanguard, 1955), p. 111.

Venturi, Lionello. Le XVIe siècle: De Léonard au Greco (Geneva: Droz, 1956), p. 248-49.

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Golson, Lucile M. "The Approach to Science of a Renaissance Painter: Research into the Theme and Background of the 'Astronomer's Studying an Eclipse' by Antoine Caron." Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6th ser., 61 (April 1963), pp. 201-14, fig. 1.

Reaves, Gibson, and Mary Kerr Reaves. "Antoine Caron's Painting 'Astronomers Studying an Eclipse.'" Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 77, no. 456 (June 1965), pp. 153-57, ill.

Grossmann, F. G. Between Renaissance and Baroque: European Art 1520-1600, exh. cat. (Manchester: City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1965), p. 24, no. 59.

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Venturi, Lionello. Renaissance Painting from Brueghel to El Greco. 2 vols. (New York: Skira and Rizzoli, 1979), vol. 2, p. 123.

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"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), p. 218, no. 126.

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Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 22, ill.

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Blunt, Anthony. Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700. 5th ed. rev. by Richard Beresford (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 100.

McGowan, Margaret M. The Vision of Rome in Late Renaissance France (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 155.

Capodieci, Luisa. "Art et tradition hermétique à la cour de Catherine de Médicis (1547-1581)." Ph.D. diss. 3 vols. (Université de Paris I, 2005), vol. 1 pp. 371-91 passim; vol. 3, unpaginated, no. 136, ill.

Zuffi, Stefano. European Art of the Sixteenth Century. Antony Shugaar, trans. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006), p. 273, ill.

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