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The Conversion of St. Paul
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Christoph Daniel Schenck
German, 1685
Limewood
14 7/16 x 10 5/16 in.
96.SD.4.1

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Having just fallen off his rearing horse, Saint Paul lies prostrate on the ground. His closed eyes hint at the blindness that struck him the moment that Jesus appeared in the clouds to him. From Jesus' mouth flow the words recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: Saule, Saule, quid me persequeri? (Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me)? The artist emphasized the drama and emotion of the moment by undercutting the horse's head and front leg and by carving Paul with foreshortening and in the greatest depth to suggest projection into the viewer's space.

Saint Paul, originally Saul, was a Pharisee who persecuted Jesus' followers until the episode depicted here. The fall, during which Jesus called upon him to take up an apostolic mission, led to his conversion and a change of name from Saul to Paul. The limewood panel depicting this pivotal moment in Saint Paul's spiritual life is paired with a panel of the Penitent Saint Peter. Together the two served as meditational images, perhaps intended for a Kunstkammer or collector's cabinet. Alternatively, since sculptor Christoph Daniel Schenck often worked for monastic patrons, the pair may have been housed in a monastery.

Detail Views

Jesus
Jesus' drapery

Horse
Horse's forward leg

Punch marks
Punch marks

Signature
Signature