The Conversion of Saul

Although he was heavily influenced by Peter Paul Rubens, Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596–1675) nevertheless managed to endow his work with a very personal slant and great vivacity, as this drawing illustrates.

Born in 's-Hertogenbosch, now in the Netherlands, Van Diepenbeeck worked principally in Antwerp. He is known for his works on canvas and glass, but also and above all for his drawings (for prints and for three dimensional objects).

This drawing illustrates the moment when Saul of Tarsus, later to become Saint Paul, is struck by a great “light coming from heaven”. Puzzled, he hears Christ speaking to him. In Western art, this episode is generally presented as a dramatic meeting, mixing soldiers and horses against a backdrop of celestial cataclysm. This passage from the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible inspired numerous artists during the Baroque period.

As for many other of his compositions, Van Diepenbeeck drew inspiration from a canvas that Rubens painted around 1621, but which was destroyed in 1945. Fortunately a photograph of the work remains as well as a reverse engraving by Schelte Adamsz. Bolswert.

This drawing is reminiscent of a series of tapestries devoted to the Acts of the Apostles on which the artist worked towards the end of his career.

The Conversion of Saul was acquired thanks to the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund and has been entrusted to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

Material / technique: 
Black stone, pen and brown ink, red-brown ink, grey wash, highlights of white gouache
229 x 338 mm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by Léon Courtin - Marcelle Bouché Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels