Benjamin West
Sketch for ‘St Paul Shaking off the Viper’ 1786

Artwork details

Benjamin West 1738–1820
Sketch for ‘St Paul Shaking off the Viper’
Date 1786
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1295 x 724 mm
frame: 1588 x 1030 x 108 mm
Acquisition Presented by the Art Fund 1945
Not on display

Display caption

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.

May 2007

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