'Paul Preaching at Athens'

'Paul Preaching at Athens'

Raphael
'Paul Preaching at Athens'
1515-16
Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas
Height 343 cm x width 442 cm
On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912950 (Acts 17:16-34)

Paul is depicted preaching to a group of councillors at the Areopagus (the seat of the judicial council) at Athens. Behind Paul are two figures paying him rapt attention: the bearded man is modelled on Janus Lascaris, the director of the new Greek academy in Rome, and the plump, clean-shaven man may have been modelled on Pope Leo X. As Leo was interested in the reform of preaching, and considered Paul the 'Prince of Preachers,' Raphael's depiction of him listening closely to Paul would have showed that he was following in Paul's footsteps. Leo had also recently set up a Greek academy in Rome, so the inclusion of the portrait of its director was not only appropriate to the scene's Athenian setting (Lascaris was Greek), but may have been a veiled compliment on Leo's promotion of classical scholarship.

The couple in the lower right-hand corner, who have been converted to Christianity by Paul's eloquence, do not appear to fit into the composition as a whole, in either position or scale. They were probably painted in by Raphael's follower Giulio Romano.