Peter Paul Rubens 1577 – 1640

St Paul

oil on panel (108 × 83 cm) — c. 1611 Museum Museo del Prado, Madrid

Peter Paul Rubens biography

This work is linked to Ephesians 1:1

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Around 1612 Rubens made a series of portraits of the apostles, in commission of the duke of Lerma. All were shown with an attribute, a personal symbol. Rubens shows Paul with a sword and a book. The book refers to the teachings of Jesus which he helped spreading. The sword can have multiple meanings.

In his letter to the Christians of Ephesus Paul speaks of "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

The sword may also refer to his early life as a persecutor of Christians. Or it may refer to his alleged beheading: as a Roman citizen he had the right to be decapitated instead of being tortured to death.

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