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Reynolds painted very few religious paintings. This one, produced towards the end of his life, shows many aspects of the ‘grand style’ he recommended to the Academy’s students. The composition is based on the work of old master painters Reynolds had studied in Italy. The drapery is simple, with little description of details such as texture or local colour.

The colour has faded to little more than tints of light and shade. But Reynolds particularly cautioned students to avoid over-sensuous colouring. Bright colours, he warned, could not produce ‘that solidity, steadiness, and simplicity of effect, which heroick subjects require.’

September 2004