The Sacrifice at Lystra

Pieter Coecke van Aelst captured the distress of Saint Paul and Barnabas upon discovering that the people of the city of Lystra, to whom they preached the gospel, had begun to worship them as pagan gods, calling Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury . The priest of Jupiter brought oxen and garlands to his temple in order to make sacrifices, but when Paul and Barnabas saw what was occurring, they tore their clothes in fury and frustration. The main drama unfolds before a magnificent temple housing a statue of Jupiter. Below, the priest and followers converge upon an ornately carved altar with sacrificial animals. On the right, Paul strides towards the crowd with an anguished expression on his face as he tears his robe, while Barnabas throws up his arms in frustration. The vignettes in the upper left and right corners show two other scenes from Paul's life, being stoned and dragged outside the city and healing a man who had never walked. Coecke produced the drawing as a cartoon for one of nine tapestries on the life of Saint Paul. The intricate design of this jewel-like drawing contrasts with the monumental scale of the final tapestry.

Pen and brown ink and brown wash with white gouache heightening (about 1529-1530)

by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (Flemish, 1502-1550)

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