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St. Paul

CAT 156 crop.jpg

CAT 156. Sands after Jacques Blanchard. St. Paul. London: Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, 1809. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

The painting that Sands engraved as Blanchard’s St. Paul in 1809 is the canvas at the Louvre that has long been known as St. Paul in Meditation. After being attributed to Jacques Blanchard at the Musée Napoléon in Paris in 1804, it had been widely accepted as his work throughout Melville’s lifetime even though in 1855 Frédéric Villot had suggested it was more likely to have been the work of his son Gabriel or his nephew Jean-Baptiste Blanchard. The painting in the Louvre has more recently been attributed to Nöel Quillerier, who submitted a portrait of St. Paul to the Académie Royale in 1663. Although this attribution has been questioned by some, the painting is no longer attributed to Jacques Blanchard and is included among the “Rejected” works in Jacques Thuillier’s complete catalog of his oeuvre (R. 27).

Thuillier in his catalog entry reproduces a line engraving by C. Normand of the St. Paul attributed to “Blanchard” that had been reproduced in volume 14 of the Recueil de Réveil in Paris in 1833 (Thuillier, fig. 1, p. 299). This line engraving by Normand is very similar to the one that Sands engraved for the Historic Gallery in 1809. It would seem to be part of the same transnational commerce represented by the outline engravings that Réveil had reproduced in the 1830s after the Piroli engravings after Flaxman’s Aeschylus and Dante that Longman had reissued in London in 1803 and 1807 (CAT  2-5, 80-102).

Melville was attentive to St. Paul throughout his career. In Mardi in 1849 he imagines a dialogue in which St. Paul “argues the doubts of Montaigne” (NN 367). Later in the same year, he noted “a fine painting by [Benjamin] West of St. Paul” in the Chapel at Greenwich Hospital in London (NN J 23). Traveling in Thessalonica seven years later, he noted “the pulpit of St. Paul in the court of a mosque. Beautiful sculpture—all one stone” (NN J 56, 394). Gail Coffler identified a dozen allusions to St. Paul in Clarel, including the extended meditation on “Paul’s ‘mystery of iniquity’” in the “Prelusive” canto inspired by a careful examination of “Piranesi’s rarer prints” (Coffler, Melville’s Allusions to Religion, 33; NN C 2.35.1-41).