Paul Writing His Epistles

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles

Valentin de Boulogne, Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, ca. 1618–1620. Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. 

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles is believed to be the work of one of two painters—Valentin de Boulogne or André Tournier. Both were French Baroque painters born in France to artist families, moved to Rome where they worked sometime between 1618 and 1625, and were influenced by the work of Caravaggio. Both painters’ careers in Rome depended primarily on private patronage. In this piece, St. Paul sits under a strong light at a highly polished table—you can see his reflection in the surface—and the light reflects off his forehead. He is dipping his pen as he reads what he has just written. One of the books he is using has a page turned under to hold his place. There are strong Baroque chiaroscuro shadows surrounding Paul, who wears a red cloak. In Christianity, red represents the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs.