The Ascension.
 Copley, John Singleton, 1738-1815

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Title:The Ascension

John Singleton Copley was a renowned late-eighteenth century American-born artist, painting during both the American and French Revolutions. Living in Boston during his early professional years, Copley's outstanding skill encouraged a move to England, where he spent the remainder of his life. While in Europe he gained fame and prestige, frequently being commissioned by royal courts. It is unclear whether the work, Saul Reproved by Samuel (1798), was painted because of Copley’s own volition or was the result of a commission. What is known is that as Copley’s career matured, he began to see himself not only as a painter but also as a historian, bringing together the genres of history painting with portraiture.[1]

Saul Reproved by Samuel is an example of Copley’s merging of history with imagination. The tension present in this dramatic scene, conveyed through contrasts of light and dark characteristic of Copley’s style, is Copley's best attempt to portray the biblical text literally and historically. As we read the text with the painting, we can ask ourselves, "Is scripture historical? How does the understanding of historical biblical texts change according to the historical moment in which the reader lives?

[1] Art Online

Artist:Copley, John Singleton, 1738-1815
Building:Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Scripture:Mark 16:19-20
Luke 24:44-53
Acts 1:1-11
Lectionary links:CAscn
General Subject:Ascension of Christ
ICONCLASS Number:73E42

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Copyright Permission:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to use and to share the file for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license compatible with this one. For uses other than the above, contact the Divinity Library at
Attribution:Copley, John Singleton, 1738-1815. The Ascension, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 24, 2016]. Original source:
Record Number:50177 Last Updated: 2014-04-11 14:06:34 Record Created: 2007-03-12 00:00:00
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition