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Harbor Scene with St. Paul’s Departure from Caesarea (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
1596
Nationality
Flemish
Birth/Death
1568-1625
Dimensions
14 1/8 x 21 1/2 inches (35.9 x 54.6 centimeters)

Credit

Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number
52.9.92
Culture
European Flemish
Classification
Paintings
Department
European to 1910

Key Ideas

  • This painting is both a landscape and a biblical scene. It was painted on a copper surface. 
  • The detailed scene depicts St. Paul (one of Jesus’s 12 apostles) boarding a ship to Rome after he was arrested in the ancient city of Caesarea. St. Paul blends into the crowd, but he can be identified by the small halo around his head. 
  • Caesarea has been a harbor city in what is now Israel since antiquity (before the Middle Ages). 
  • Jan Brueghel the Elder was one of the most prominent Flemish painters of the early 17th century. 

Learn More

This oil painting on copper depicts an outdoor scene in the ancient harbor city of Caesarea (present-day Israel). The city was founded by Herod the Great in the first century BCE. The scene in this painting is from the Book of Acts, in which St. Paul boards a ship to Rome after being arrested in Caesarea. St. Paul is the figure wearing a halo (near the lower right corner of the painting). He is surrounded by soldiers.

St. Paul was one of Jesus’s 12 apostles, or close followers. He is considered to be one of the key 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. The fishermen depicted at the bottom left side of the painting represent the other 11 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 sometimes collaborated in paintings with other famous Flemish painters, including Peter Paul Rubens and Hendrik van Balen

Additional Resources

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Images

  • An oil painting of a large crowd of people standing beside a harbor. The figures in the front are bringing back fish from boats. Several ships are depicted in the ocean, and there are mountains on the horizon. A figure wearing a halo stands in front of the crowd.

    Harbor Scene with St. Paul’s Departure from Caesarea