The Mass of Saint Basil

Artist: Pierre Hubert Subleyras (French, Saint-Gilles-du-Gard 1699–1749 Rome)

Date: 1746

Medium: Oil on canvas, transferred from canvas

Dimensions: 54 x 31 1/8 in. (137 x 79 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Wrightsman Fund, 2007

Accession Number: 2007.166


The rare subject concerns Saint Basil the Great (ca. 339–379) and Emperor Valens, a heretical Arian. Surrounded by priests, Basil receives the wine for consecration from a priest. Valens's required gifts of bread are presented by figures at the left while, to the right, the emperor swoons, moved by the solemnity of the mass. This work is a highly finished proposal, or modello, for Subleyras's most important commission, the design of the mosaic altarpiece for Saint Peter's in Rome. The painter retained the modello for himself. The frame is original to the picture.