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Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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On the Greek island of Patmos, Saint John the Evangelist had a vision of the Woman of the Apocalypse, which he recorded in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Here he sits with an oversized book in his lap, his quill pen poised, and looks towards the tiny illuminated female figure hovering in the clouds above him. She is accompanied by a dragon – the devil – ready, according to Saint John, to devour her baby as soon as it is born. She is given wings, faintly visible behind her, to escape. This woman is often understood to be the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. The vision is associated with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary was herself conceived without sin. This painting is paired with The Immaculate Conception, which shows the Virgin standing on a moon and surrounded by stars, like in the vision we see here.

The National Gallery, London



Saint John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos


about 1618


Oil on canvas


H 135.5 x W 102.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought with a special grant and contributions from The Pilgrim Trust and The Art Fund, 1956

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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