About this artwork

St Stephen was the first Christian martyr and experienced a vision of the open heavens as he was being stoned to death. He had angered the authorities in Jerusalem with his zealous preaching and was accused of blasphemy. He wears the robes of a deacon, as he was also one of the first seven deacons appointed by the apostles. A beam of intense light shines on the kneeling saint and angels tumble towards him bearing the palm fronds of martyrdom and a laurel crown. The Flemish landscape artist Paul Bril, who lived in Rome, may have owned this painting.

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Adam Elsheimer

Adam Elsheimer

Elsheimer specialised in detailed brilliantly coloured paintings on copper. He combined figures and landscape vistas with precision and delicacy paying particular attention to the effects of light. His work was greatly admired and profoundly influenced many artists in Rome, especially those from Northern Europe, including Rubens and Claude. Elsheimer was born and trained as a painter in Frankfurt. He travelled to Venice and stayed there for two years before moving permanently to Rome. Tintoretto's paintings in Venice exerted a lasting influence on his own short career. Knowledge of his compositions spread through the circulation of prints made from them.