Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

St. Paul in Prison

oil on panel (73 × 60 cm) — 1627 Museum Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Philemon 1:1

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Tags: Paul

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This is one of Rembrandt's earliest known panels, made in the year that he turned 21. It shows the apostle St. Paul in prison, lost in thought. Obviously the harsh conditions in jail did not stop him from trying to achieve his mission. The pen in his left hand suggests that he was writing one of his many letters.

Paul is depicted in traditional manner: long beard, bald head, and with his distinctive attribute: the sword, quite remarkable given the context.

The sword has several meanings:

  • a reference to his martyrdom: the Romans killed him with a sword;
  • his previous life, as a persecutor of Christians;
  • in his letter to the Ephesians (6:17) Paul calls God's word "the sword of the Spirit".

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