Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

Jacob Pynas (Dutch, Amsterdam 1592/93–after 1650 Amsterdam (?))
Oil on wood
19 x 28 7/8 in. (48.3 x 73.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Emile E. Wolf, 1971
Accession Number:
Not on view

This painting, which unfortunately has suffered considerably, is certainly by Jacob Pynas and may be dated to the late 1620s, partly on the basis of comparison with the artist's different rendering of the subject, dated 1628 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). At some late date, the monogram PL was painted on top of Pynas's own, in order to pass the picture off as a work by the more important Amsterdam artist who strongly influenced Pynas, Pieter Lastman (1583–1633).

The subject is taken from Acts 14:6–18. Paul and Barnabas, having been driven out of Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, flee to Lystra, in Lycaonia (Asia Minor), where they preach the Gospel. When Paul heals a cripple by commanding him to walk, the locals "[lift] up their voices," declaring that Jupiter and Mercury "are come down to us in the likeness of men." A statue of Jupiter stands before the city (Pynas shows the statue to the upper right), and the high priest of the temple has the people bring garlands and sacrificial oxen (in the painting, the procession, with two garlanded oxen, approaches from the left background). In frustration, the apostles tear at their clothes, crying, "We are also men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God" (who, as Paul, pointing upward, indicates in the painting, is in heaven, not present as a graven image). Pynas depicts the priest in a white robe and surrounded by excited celebrants, some with torches and one with a tambourine. Behind him, the bearded man with bare feet must be the former cripple; a worshipful woman lifts his tunic and gestures at his healed legs. On the steps, Barnabas twists around and rends his garment, attracting curious spectators.

Lastman had treated the subject at least twice in the previous decade, in a painting of 1614 (location unknown) and in a canvas dated 1617 (Amsterdams Historisch Museum). Except for the gesturing Paul in the earlier picture, the later work is closer to the Pynas, both in composition and in the placement of key figures such as the apostles and the priest. The idea of adding a rooster to the sacrifice may also come from Lastman's panel of 1617. Pynas's picture of 1628 presents the action more clearly, in a less crowded arrangement, than does the New York painting or either work by Lastman. This might be taken to suggest that The Met’s picture was painted slightly earlier than the version in Amsterdam, but other evidence may now be lost, and a survey of known works by Pynas does not suggest a linear development.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Inscribed (bottom center, on step): PL [monogram]
[Leslie Hand, London, until about 1953, as by Pieter Lastman; sold to Wolf]; Emile E. Wolf, New York (about 1953–71)
Sacramento. E. B. Crocker Art Gallery. "The Pre-Rembrandtists," December 7, 1974–January 26, 1975, no. 10.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

C. C. Cunningham. "Jacob Pynas—Adoration of the Magi." Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin (Winter 1959), p. 11 n. 8, fig. 7, accepts the Lastman signature as genuine but calls the painting "extremely close to Jacob Pynas"; reads the final digit of an inscribed date as "7".

Otto Benesch. Letter to Emile E. Wolf. January 10, 1961, attributes it to Jacob Pynas and suggests that the signature was originally that of Pynas and was changed at a later date to that of Lastman.

John Walsh Jr. "New Dutch Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 99 (May 1974), pp. 342–44, 349 n. 6, figs. 5, 6 (overall and detail), dates it to about the 1620s; discusses and illustrates the alteration of the signature [see Notes].

Astrid Tümpel in The Pre-Rembrandtists. Exh. cat., E. B. Crocker Art Gallery. Sacramento, 1974, pp. 29, 70–72, no. 10, ill. (color), dates it to the 1620s; calls Lastman's 1614 painting of the subject (whereabouts unknown) the model for this picture.

Christian Tümpel in The Pre-Rembrandtists. Exh. cat., E. B. Crocker Art Gallery. Sacramento, 1974, p. 149 n. 74.

Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 92, ill.

Albert Blankert. Amsterdams Historisch Museum: Schilderijen daterend van voor 1800, voorlopige catalogus. Amsterdam, 1975/1979, p. 171, under no. 222, under the entry for Lastman's painting of this subject in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, notes that the attribution of the MMA picture has recently been correctly changed from Lastman to Pynas.

Bob Haak. The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1984, p. 193, fig. 395, relates its composition and subject matter to Lastman.

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 180, states that it is "based on a lost composition by Pieter Lastman".

Astrid Tümpel in Pieter Lastman: The Man Who Taught Rembrandt. Exh. cat., Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1991, pp. 20–21, 23, pl. 6, dates it 1617; notes the unmistakable influence of Lastman, comparing the various versions of this subject by Pynas and Lastman.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 536–38, no. 138, colorpl. 138.

Elmer Kolfin in The Image of the Black in Western Art. Ed. David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Vol. 3, part 1, From the "Age of Discovery" to the Age of Abolition: Artists of the Renaissance and Baroque. Cambridge, Mass., 2010, p. 380 n. 49.

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