CNA Staff, Jan 25, 2024 / 04:00 am
Even those who aren’t intimately acquainted with art history may be familiar with the Baroque master Caravaggio’s dual paintings depicting the conversion of St. Paul, two of the more famous works of art in the Western canon.
Yet the very fact that there are two such paintings remains something of an oddity, one that historians have puzzled over for centuries.
Caravaggio completed the first of the paintings, “The Conversion of Saint Paul,” at the same time as the equally monumental “Crucifixion of Saint Peter.” Both works were commissioned by the Roman jurist and papal treasurer-general Tiberio Cerasi for the Chapel of the Assumption in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
“The Conversion” depicts Paul at the moment he “fell to the ground” and was struck blind by a revelation from Jesus Christ, as told in the Acts of the Apostles as well as several of Paul’s letters. After that experience, Paul became what God himself described as a “chosen instrument” who would “bring [the Lord’s] name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.”