Nicolas Poussin
St. Frances of Rome's Vision of the Sinner

Circa 1657
Oil on canvas
The Louvre (2nd floor, French Painting, room 14)

In his life of St. Frances of Rome Giovanni Mattioti tells of a man whose health was ruined by sinful living. The saint nursed him back to health and tried tirelessly to lead him from his evil ways, but he would not repent. Then to her horror Frances was given a vision of the man's soul being led at his death to Hell.1

Poussin puts the saint in the foreground praying for the man. Her vision is pictured separately in the right background, as an angel drives away a demon who is carrying the man over his shoulder.

Mattioti does not say that Frances's prayers for the man were directed to the Virgin Mary or any particular saint, but in the painting she kneels before a saint who holds arrows in both hands. The saint could be the Virgin Mary, although her garments are red and blue. Or she could be St. Ursula, whose attribute is an arrow. Or the arrows may be the artist's way of visualizing "the most just scorn of the Divine Majesty, inflamed with anger at that man" (160, my translation) that Francesca was hoping to avert.2

Read more about images of St. Frances of Rome.

Source: this page at Wikimedia Commons.

1 Mattioti, 158-60

2 Ibid., 160 (my translation).