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St. Paul Preaching at Athens

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1707-1720 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Simon Gribelin II, born 1661 - died 1733 (printmaker)
    Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    engraving on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case SH, shelf 2

The so-called Raphael Cartoons, which this print reproduces, 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.

Simon Gribelin was the first printmaker to issue a complete set of prints of the Cartoons. When they came out in 1707 they carried a letterpress titlepage dedicating them to Queen Anne. Although they met with success it was nothing compared to that which greeted the set produced by Nicholas Dorigny in 1719.

Gribelin was born in France but came to England around 1680. He was the most important silver engraver in London at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This meant engraving on the surfaces of watches, tea caddies, salvers etc. He was also a printmaker. In the 1690s he published two prints after history paintings by Charles Le Brun, then in 1706 he engraved an altar dish with a scene of the Deposition based on a picture by Annibale Carracci. These may have led to the idea of engraving the Cartoons.

The antiquarian George Vertue wrote in his notebooks "in London about 1700, the state of Print Engraving on Copper was at a low ebb… til about 1707. Mr Griblins cartons in print from the pictures of Raphael were well received, and vast numbers of them [sold]."

As well as visual information each print delivers written information in the form of a caption in English and Latin giving the title, the biblical reference, the names of the artist and the engraver, and stating the location of the Cartoons.

Horace Walpole, writing in 1763, said of these prints "their success was very great having never been completely engraved before; but they were too small a volume, nor had Gribelin anything of greatness in his manner or capacity: His works have no merit than finicalness, and that not in perfection, can give them." Dr. Johnson defined finicialness as "superfluous nicety or foppery".

Each of the individual engravings shows the Cartoon in reverse while the view of the Cartoon gallery shows them the right way round.

In March 1735 Gribelin's son was selling sets of his late father's prints of the Cartoons for 15 shillings. By 1753 they had dropped to half a guinea (ten shillings and sixpence) in the price list of the print-publisher John Bowles. The following year in the catalogue of the print-publisher Henry Overton II, they were listed under "Cheap Sets of Prints".

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. The image is bordered by parallel lines forming a moulded frame.

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

Place of Origin

London (made)


1707-1720 (made)


Simon Gribelin II, born 1661 - died 1733 (printmaker)
Raphael, born 1483 - died 1520 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

engraving on paper


Height: 15.9 cm trimmed to, Width: 20.9 cm trimmed to

Object history note

Unidentified collector's mark (L.2590)

Descriptive line

St Paul Preaching at Athens; one of a set of seven engravings of the Raphael cartoons; by Simon Gribelin (II).

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

Le Blanc, Charles. Manuel de l'Amateur d'Estampes. Paris, 1854-6.
Vol. II, p. 321.
Miller, Liz. 'From Marcantonio Raimondi to the Postcard: Prints of the Raphael Cartoons'. Display leaflet, 1995.
Gilpin, William. An Essay Upon Prints, 1768, p. 80-81.
O'Connell, Sheila. 'Simon Gribelin (1661-1733): Printmaker and Metal-Engraver', in Print Quarterly. Vol. II, 1985, p. 27-37.
Gribelin, Simon. The Seven Famous Cartons[sic] of Raphael Urbin. 1720
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.


Paper; Printing ink


Engraving (printing process)

Subjects depicted

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


Prints; Religion; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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