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Preview image of work. pen and brown ink and brown wash on paper,  Saints Anthony and Paul in the Desert 116

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Saints Anthony and Paul in the Desert

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Charles Mellin (Nancy, France, ca. 1600 - 1649, Rome, Italy); [formerly attributed to Artist Unidentified]; [formerly attributed to Nicolas Poussin]


Saints Anthony and Paul in the Desert

Creation Date



mid-17th century


5 1/2 in. x 7 1/16 in. (14 cm. x 18 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

Europe, Italy

Medium and Support

pen and brown ink and brown wash on paper

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III


Public Domain

Accession Number


This study depicts the meeting between Paul of Thebes, then 113 years old, and Anthony the Great, at age ninety-three. A raven doubled the portion of its daily bread delivery to feed both hermits. The drawing is typical of Mellin’s lively and nervous way of drawing, which is characterized by swift line work in ink and almost abstract washes broadly applied with a loaded brush. It is a compositional study marked by contrasts between three tones: that of the paper, which serves to suggest highlights; areas applied with light brown wash, for the mid-tone; and, finally, passages of dark brown ink. This sheet was likely drawn in connection with an unrealized or lost painting, since Mellin frequently made several overall compositional studies to refine the depiction of a particular subject before venturing to paint it.

Keywords: saint(s)   work on paper   master drawing