CLAUDE LORRAIN
(b. 1600, Chamagne, d. 1682, Roma)

Port Scene with the Embarkation of St Ursula

1641
Oil on canvas, 113 x 149 cm
National Gallery, London

The painting was executed in Rome for Cardinal Poli. It depicts the scene when Ursula (with a red-cross flag and an arrow symbolizing her future martyrdom) and her retinue depart for Cologne.

This picture is entirely concerned with the phenomenon of light; the golden tone fills the whole surface and envelops each of the individual elements. The actual subject, St Ursula embarking with her retinue of virgins, seems lost in this paean of praise for the sun, which shines directly at the spectator from the middle of the canvas. In this picture Claude perfectly observed an effect which eluded most painters before the nineteenth century - the convincing depiction of direct sunlight. He was the first artist ever to dare the daunting task of depicting a direct view into the sun. Few of Claude's pictures go as far as this one, as he usually preferred to portray the softer light of early morning or late evening.

The painting is included in Liber Veritatis (LV 54).