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St Paul Preaching at Athens

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)

  • Date:

    1719 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dorigny, Nicholas Sir, born 1658 - died 1746 (printmaker)
    Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    etching and engraving on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case PD, shelf 297

This print is in reverse of the cartoon from which it is derived. The so-called Raphael Cartoons are seven full size designs for tapestries by the great Italian Renaissance artist Raphael (1483-1520). They illustrate passages from the Bible concerning the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. None of them is smaller than ten feet high by thirteen feet wide. They belong to Her Majesty the Queen and have been on loan to this museum since 1865. The earliest print relating to the Raphael Cartoons dates from 1516, the year in which Raphael received final payment for the commission. It inaugurates an extraordinary case study in the history of printmaking, stretching over more than four hundred and fifty years and across a wide range of printmaking techniques. This print is in reverse of the cartoon and therefore the same direction as the tapestry.

Nicholas Dorigny's prints were the subject of an editorial in the 'Spectator' on the 19th November 1711. "These invaluable pieces are very justly in the Hands of the greatest and most pious sovereign in the World; and cannot be the frequent object of every one at their own leisure; but an engraver is to a painter, what a printer is to an author it is worthy Her Majesty's name, that she has encouraged that noble artist Monsieur Dorigny to publish these works of Raphael." Writing in 1722 about the works of Raphael in Rome, Jonathan Richardson said "That I should write upon what I never saw may appear strange to some; Such may please only to obeserve that My remarks are chiefly upon the way of thinking itself."

The engraver and antiquarian George Vertue had met and spoken with Dorigny. Vertue records that "several gentlemen of note travelling to Rome there found Mr Dorigny who was then in the highest reputation for several engraved works after Raphael. These got him justly the reputation of the first engraver in Europe for which reason several Curious persons persuaded & engaged him to come to England to undertake those Famous Cartons at Hampton Court painted by Raphael...From his coming to England [in 1711] I may justly date the rise of the reputation of the engraving."

The first proposal was that Dorigny engrave the Cartoons for the exclusive use of Queen Anne as presents for the nobility and visiting diplomats. Dorigny's price for the work of £4000-£5000 meant this idea was quashed and the prints were sold by subscription at four guineas a set. Dorigny was provided with limited royal patronage in the form of lodgings at Hampton Court, coals, and a bottle of wine a day.

The lettering in this set of prints is entirely in Latin underlining how they were aimed at an elite educated market. Listed are the titles, biblical quotations, details of the lcoations of the Cartoons and their sizes.

Queen Anne had died while Dorigny was still at work. On the first of April 1719 Dorigny presented to King George I two sets of his newly completed prints of the Cartoons. On the 13th June 1720 Dorigny received a knighthood. He was the first of only two individuals in the history of British art to be knighted for having made particular prints. The other was Sir Robert Strange, knighted in 1787 for an engraving of Benjamin West's 'Apotheosis of the Princes Octavius and Alfred'.

Physical description

Saint Paul stands on steps in front of a building, right, preaching to a crowd. Behind is a townscape and two buildings, one rotund with marble columns and statues in niches, the other square with arches. There is a statue of Mars just behind the listening crowd.

This print is in reverse of the cartoon from which it is derived but faithfully reproduces the compositional details of the original.

Place of Origin

London (printed)


1719 (made)


Dorigny, Nicholas Sir, born 1658 - died 1746 (printmaker)
Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

etching and engraving on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Raphael Sanctius Vrbinas Pinxit
left side of lower margin

Eq. Nicolaus Dorigny Gallus Del. & Sculp.
right side of lower margin

Title lower margin, centred

Stans autem Paulus in medio Arcopagi, ait: Viri Athenienses per omnia quaisi Superstitiosiores vos video. Praeteriens enim, et videns Simulachra vestra, inveni et aram in qua Scriptum erat: IGNOTO DEO. Quod ergo / ignorantes colitis, hoc ego annuntio vobis. Deus qui fecit mundum, et omnia quae in eo sunt. Act. Apost. Cap. XVIII.
Lower margin

Exemplar asservatur in Palatio MAG. BRIT. REG. dicto HAMPTON-COVRT Long. ped. 14. pol. 7. Alt. ped. 11. pol. 4.
Lower margin centred below rest of text

Plate number lower right


Height: 54.5 cm sheet, Width: 68.9 cm sheet, Height: 51.7 cm platemark, Width: 61.8 cm platemark

Descriptive line

St Paul Preaching at Athens by Sir Nicholas Dorigny (1657-1746); from a cartoon by Raphael for the tapestries in the Sistine Chapel; etching and engraving; British; originally printed 1719, a later impression.

The V&A holds two other sets of the Pinacotheca Hamptoniana; see Museum No. E.656-1996 (bound volume) and Museum Nos. Dyce.2560 to Dyce.2566.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dorigny, Nicholas. Pinacotheca Hamptoniana. London, 1719.
Gilpin, William. An Essay Upon Prints., 1768, p. 83.
Meyer, A. Apostles in England: Sir James Thornhill and the Legacy of the Rapael Taspestry Cartoons. Exhibition catalogue, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, 1996, pp.27-30, figs 12 and 16 [other impressions exhibited].
Shearman, John. Raphael's Cartoons in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen and the tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. London, Phaidon, 1972.
Fermor, Sharon. The Raphael Tapestry Cartoons: Narrative, Decoration, Design. London, Scala Books in association with the Victoria and Albery Museum.

Production Note

later impression, first printed 1719


Printing ink; Paper


Etching (printing process); Engraving (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Townscapes (representations); Raphael Cartoons; Classical statues; Clothing, Costume; Crowd scenes; Rotundas


Prints; Religion; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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