(b. 1622, Amsterdam, d. 1678, Venezia)

St Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra

Oil on canvas, 179 x 139 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Around 1660 Karel Dujardin, known for his Italianate landscapes also started to paint large biblical scenes in a smooth, elegant and colourful style. St Paul Healing the Cripple at Lystra is an impressive example of history painting in classicist style.

The apostle Paul is the central figure in the composition. He towers over a crowd of sick and kneeling people. The scene depicted here is taken from the story of Paul, who had fled with Barnabas to Lystra - in present-day southern Turkey - (Acts 14:9-10). When Paul was preaching in Lystra, among those listening to him was a man who had been a cripple since birth. Paul 'saw that he had the faith to be cured, so he said to him in a loud voice, "stand up straight on your feet"; and he sprang up and started to walk'. After this miraculous cure, the crowd took Paul and Barnabas to be heathen gods, and the people even wanted to make sacrifices to them. Appalled, the Christian apostles shouted that they were not gods and begged the people not to offer them sacrifices. In desperation they tore their own clothes. This last event was often depicted in the 17th century, but Karel Dujardin chose a more original moment.

The apostle Paul was painted from a a low viewpoint, his form looming against the cloudy sky. He stands in an elegant pose, with his weight on his left leg as he gestures expansively with his arms. Paul, dressed in a brown robe and a bright red cloak, looks at the cripple beside him. The strong red is balanced by the bright blue of their clothes worn by the women on the left. The woman in the foreground on the right, with her immaculate white headdress, is also striking. She grasps the hem of Paul's cloak in her hand in the hope of receiving some of his power.

The needy people standing behind Paul look not at him but at the point where Barnabas once stood. Dujardin had originally portrayed Barnabas behind Paul, but later - for reasons unknown - removed him from the picture.The faint outlines of Barnabas' head are still dimly visible.