Elymas struck blind
A Roman palace in Cyprus
The scene takes place in a sumptuous marble palace featuring Solomonic columns. We see Sergius Paulus on a platform, the Roman proconsul of Paphos, Cyprus, crowned with a laurel wreath. On the right-hand side, we see Saint Paul, with a book in his hand, and Saint Barnabas, both of whom were sent by the Holy Ghost to the island of Cyprus to convert the Gentiles, including the Roman leader.
Blindness as a punishment
Amid the proconsul’s retinue was the sorcerer Elymas, also known as Bar-Jesus, who appears here in the foreground, dressed in a turban, beside Sergius Paulus. While Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas were preaching, the sorcerer Elymas withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. According to the New Testament, Saint Paul looked at him and said the following words: “O, full of all deceit and all mischief, child of the devil, enemy of all righteousness! Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season” (Acts 13, 10-11). The sorcerer was left blind, and he sought someone to lead him by the hand; and the proconsul, seeing what had happened, was converted.
The cartoon inverted
As with the other pieces in the series, the cartoon is kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London with the title The Conversion of the Proconsul. The cartoons for this series were commissioned to Raphael by Pope Leo X for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel.
The tapestry in use
Throughout the seventeenth century, the tapestry was used in liturgical ceremonies at the Monastery of the Incarnation. Since the nineteenth century, the tapestry has decorated the Hall of Columns in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Beneath the throne of the proconsul there is an inscription which reads:
L. SERGIVS PAVLLVS ASIAE PROCOS. CHRISTIANAM FIDEM AMPLECITVR SAVLI PREDICATIONE
Lucius Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Asia, embraces the Christian faith through the preaching of Paul.
Series Acts of the Apostles
Seventh tapestry in the series
Model Cartoon by Rafael Sanzio, 1519
Manufacture Jan Raes II, Brussels, c. 1605-1629
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 534 x 783 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
Origin Collection of Philip III
On display Hall of Columns