(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

St Paul Preaching in Athens

Tempera on paper, mounted on canvas, 390 x 440 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Acts of the Apostles say that Paul was enraged when he saw how many images of pagan gods there were in Athens. A group of philosophers asked him to explain his position in the Areopagus, the ancient court site in Athens. In the cartoon Paul is lending emphasis to his talk with dramatic gestures, while those listening are all reacting in very different ways. The man on the right at the front, with the ecstatic look on his face, is probably Dionysius Areopagita, who is said to have been converted to the Christian faith by this sermon.

In St Paul Preaching in Athens, the viewers become the listeners, joining the circle of those people the Apostle is addressing. In this scene Raphael succeeded in creating a classical mood by integrating into the composition motifs from Roman reliefs and classical figures, buildings, and statues.