Saint Francis in Meditation

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Saint Francis is shown meditating in a landscape, holding a skull in his hand. His hood is pulled back and the light catches one side of his face, marking out his strong nose and pronounced cheekbone, while the other side remains in deep shadow. He wears the fraying and patched robe of the Franciscans, the religious order he founded in the thirteenth century; all members took a vow of poverty.

The skull symbolises death and refers to the suffering of the crucified Christ – the focus of the saint’s meditation. But this is not a scene of quiet contemplation: Francis’s upward gaze, slightly open mouth and upturned palm suggest he is talking with God. His hands are marked with the stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion. In the landscape background you can just make out a simple hut, suggesting that the saint is not in complete isolation.

The National Gallery, London



Saint Francis in Meditation




Oil on canvas


H 162 x W 137 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Major Charles Edmund Wedgwood Wood, 1946

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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