The Mass of Saint Basil

Pierre Hubert Subleyras French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 627

This is Subleyras’s highly finished proposal, or modello, for his most important commission: a design that would be translated into an enormous mosaic altarpiece for Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Subleyras depicts Saint Basil the Great (ca. 330–379) celebrating Mass in the presence of the Emperor Valens (328–378). The artist’s exceptional ability to depict white in all its tonal range is evident in the robes of the priests who surround Basil as he receives wine for Communion. The young emperor, picked out by his bright red cape, swoons dramatically in response to what he witnesses.

The Mass of Saint Basil, Pierre Hubert Subleyras (French, Saint-Gilles-du-Gard 1699–1749 Rome), Oil on canvas, transferred from canvas

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