St. Paul Preaching

This is an early print of Pannini's, one of many works he did on Biblical subjects. Heroic action is here perfectly fitted to its grand and noble setting. People circle around Paul, their eyes fixed on his upraised hand. But there is a dissonance, a displacement occuring. The architecture magnifies his every gesture, gives it scale and weight and resonance, and yet he is prophesying that the marble and the world that so arranged it is an illusion, is about to vanish. (The architecture is pagan Roman after all, the prophecy about the rise of Christianity.) St. Paul thus preaches the doctrine of a new world even as he stands amidst the magnificent monuments of the old. His eloquence demands that it be the center of every vortex.

The crowd seems rapt, by the power of his voice or the audacity of his prophecy. Most of the crowd, that is. Along its edges a few turn away distracted by other things. And near the upper edges of the picture, in the high marble archways, weedy plants have begun to sprout.

See the full graphic and then a detail below (you may need to scroll right as well as down):


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