SOLIMENA, Francesco
(b. 1657, Canale di Serino, d. 1747, Barra)

The Conversion of St Paul

San Paolo Maggiore, Naples

The picture shows the narrative scene on the north wall of the sacristy in San Paolo Maggiore, Naples.

Thanks to their large format and their multitude of figures, the scenes on the end walls are largely responsible for the magnificent effect of the space. On the north wall the Conversion of St Paul is depicted, on the opposite south wall the Fall of Simon Magus can be seen. The two scenes depicting falls were juxtaposed with obviously didactic intent.

In designing the Conversion of St Paul, Solimena was obliged to compete the monumental painting of Michelangelo, which was available in the seventeenth century in many reproductions. That his work survives comparison with this imposing precedent is not a result of borrowing from Michelangelo, but of his staging the scene in a way that could hardly be more dramatic, showing the tumultuous response of Saul's retinue to the fall and blinding of their leader.