frame: 1588 x 1030 x 108 mm
West came to London from America and won fame as a history painter. He believed artists should take subjects from the most respected and improving episodes in history and literature, and promoted biblical themes whenever he could. He was commissioned to paint an altarpiece for the new chapel of Greenwich Hospital (now the Royal Naval Hospital). West exhibited this sketch for the huge work at the Royal Academy in 1787. The subject is from the New Testament. The apostle Paul performs his first miracle, on the island of Malta: he survives a snake-bite, to the wonder of the islanders.