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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):West, Benjamin
Culture:American (1738 - 1820)
Title:The Conversion of Saint Paul; Saint Paul Persecuting the Christians; and Ananias Restoring Saint Paul's Sight
Date Made:1786
Materials:oil on canvas
Place Made:United States
Measurements:all panels together: 56 x 54 in.; 142.24 x 137.16 cm
Narrative Inscription:  signed and dated at lower left: B. West 1786
Accession Number:  SC 1951.169
Credit Line:Gift of Adeline Flint Wing, class of 1898 and Caroline Roberta Wing, class of 1896

Currently on view

religion - Christian; man

Label Text:
This painting, by the American ex-patriot historical painter Benjamin West, is one of two preliminary designs for a painted window in St. Paul's Church, Birmingham, England. The Biblical subject was particularly appropriate for this church. The burst of divine light that temporarily blinded Paul in his transforming moment was an ideal topic for the window that was created from West's designs by the glass painter Francis Eginton.

Paul (called Saul before his conversion) was a Roman soldier in the first century known for his persecution of Christians, as he is shown in the left panel where he gestures toward a young woman whose hands are bound. The central panel shows the moment of transformation, as Saul is blocked in the road do Damascus and challenged by a voice that says "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" In the right panel he is baptized by Ananias and his sight is restored. Theatrical lighting, dramatic figures, and turbulent drapery, typical of West's style, enhance the drama.

The two small panels of putti were probably painted by another hand. A second more finished study is owned by the Dallas Museum of Art.

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