Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jan Luyken’s etching, “The Conversion of St Paul”, 1708

Jan (Johannes) Luyken (1649–1712)

“La Conversion de Saint Paul”, 1708, plate 58 from a series of sixty-two Old and New Testament biblical prints first published by Pieter Mortier in 1708. This impression is from the 1729 edition published by Covens and Mortier in “Biblia Sacra, dat is, de H. Schriftuer van het Oude, en het Nieuwe Testament, naer de laetste Roomsche keure der gemeine Latijnsche overzettinge, in nederduitsch vertaeld (...)”, Hermanus Besseling, Utrecht. (Note that this title is based on information taken from another dealer’s description selling the same print from the later 1743 edition: I believe that this print is from “Icones Biblicae Veteris and Novi Testamenti”, Amsterdam. Moreover, The British Museum does not have this print but has the frontispiece to a later edition lettered with the title: “ICONES BIBLICÆ / Veteris et N: Testamenti / FIGURES du Vieux et du Nouveau / Testament / Inventées / et Gravées / Par / Jan Luyken”; see

Etching on laid paper with wide margins and centre fold as published.
Size: (sheet) 48.5 x 57.5 cm; (plate) 34.2 x 44 cm; (image borderline) 32.8 x 43.2 cm
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left) “Edit. à J. ovens et C.Mortier”; (left of centre) “Paulus Bekeering. Handeling: IX.v: 4.”; (right of centre) “La Conversion de Saint Paul. Actes [sic] IX. vs: 4.”; (right) “Johannes Luyken Inv. et Fecit. / 58.”

Condition: a faultless impression that is well-inked and well-printed in remarkable (near pristine condition) for its considerable age (i.e. there are no tears, holes, creases—beyond the publication centrefold—abrasions, stains or foxing).

I am selling this museum-quality etching in an outstanding state of preservation for AU$185 (currently US$140.67/EUR119.52/GBP104.94 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

If you are interested in purchasing this visually arresting etching, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

This large etching illustrates the event from the New Testament—Acts 9, verse 4—where Jesus in an aura of blinding light interrupts Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus) in his plan to arrest Jesus’ disciples with the question: (transl. from the International Version [NIV]) “… ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’”

What I love about this composition is that the graphic strength of Luyken’s portrayal of spiritual light relies more than a little upon contrast between the treatment of the shafts of light and the silhouetted tree at the upper left of the image. Clearly the strong tonal contrast of the white paper signifying shafts of light are read as blindingly white by their juxtaposition with the almost black silhouetted tree, but a more subtle contrast is also present helping to create the illusion of bright light. For me the organic edge of the tree’s silhouette shape also plays an important role in creating the illusion by the contrast of tiny curves set beside mechanically straight lines representing the light shafts.

I also wish to point out another subtlety in Luyken’s treatment of the shafts of light and the tree: note that he has varied the tones in the spaces between the shafts of light so that the full strength of the light seems concentrated at the centre of the spreading beams. Moreover, even in the dark black of the silhouetted tree Luyken has modelled the tree’s form with cast light from the upper left.

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