Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This painting is both a landscape and a religious scene from the Book of Acts. It depicts St. Paul boarding a ship to Rome after being arrested in Caesarea. He blends into the crowd, but he can be identified by the small halo around his head.
- Saint Paul was one of Jesus’s 12 apostles (close followers). He is considered to be one of the most prominent figures in the development and spread of early Christianity. He is known for spreading the teachings of Jesus to non-Jewish people. His writings make up a large part of the New Testament.
- Caesarea has been a harbor city since antiquity, or ancient times (before the Middle Ages). The city of Caesarea was founded by Herod the Great in the first century BCE. It is located in modern-day Israel.
- The fishermen (bottom left side of the painting) represent the apostles from the Bible. This symbolism comes from a quote in Matthew 4:19, in which Jesus says that the apostles will become “fishers of people.”
- Jan Brueghel the Elder was a member of a family of artists (notably his father and his brother). He is known as “the Elder” because his son, also named Jan, became a well-known painter.
- Brueghel (the Elder) was nicknamed the “Velvet Brueghel” because of his ability to paint fine details. He worked mostly in Antwerp, Belgium, which became a major port city and cultural hub during his lifetime.
- He was affiliated with other successful painters of his time, including Peter Paul Rubens and Hendrik van Balen.
Painted on copper, this small work exhibits the jewel-like tones and attention to detail for which Jan Brueghel was famous. Caesarea, a monumental ancient harbor city in present-day Israel, is the setting for this teeming crowd of sailors, fishermen, and onlookers.
Nearly lost in the mass is Saint Paul. Identified by his halo, he is surrounded by soldiers near the lower right corner. The religious subject seems to be a pretext for painting a marvelous landscape. It can be viewed as an initial step toward the development of landscape as an independent subject that came about in the following century.
Resources for Teachers
- Read an article about the life of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
- Read an article about another painting by this artist.
- Read an article about the history of Caesarea.
- Read the biography of Saint Paul.
Resources for Students