Mobile menu
Eduard Jakob von Steinle (1810-86)

St Luke Painting the Virgin Signed and dated 1851

Oil on canvas | 134.0 x 181.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 408952

Your share link is...


  • The Austrian Eduard Steinle was linked to the Nazarenes, a group of artists who sought to revive medieval and early Renaissance artistic techniques and subjects, of which St Luke painting the Virgin is a well-known example. According to tradition, St Luke, the patron saint of artists, was the first person to paint the Virgin and Child. Unlike some early artists, who used the subject of St Luke painting the Virgin to imply a subtle form of self-portraiture, Steinle has not given St Luke his own features but those of a copper engraver, L. Kappes. The subject is one to which Steinle returned several times, first in 1838 and then again in 1842, before producing this painting in 1851 for Prince Albert, who gave it to Queen Victoria as a birthday gift.

    Although the Nazarenes exerted an influence on Steinle, the Austrian artist’s painting style, as in this example, was generally more sentimental, with figures more dramatically modelled than those of the other members of the group, who advocated pure simplicity and flat outlines. Here the figure of St Luke in particular appears to have been carefully observed from life, his face standing out strongly against the colours of the sky.

    This picture appears in a watercolour by James Roberts of Queen Victoria’s 1851 birthday table (RCIN 926517). It was chosen to be engraved for the Royal Gallery of Art series in the Art Journal in 1856. The commentary remarks that although the picture is ‘fine in conception and execution’ with ‘rich and powerful’ colouring, it includes a number of ‘mistakes’, for example the inclusion of a modern Venetian carpet and glass vase of a recent style – an attitude reflecting the influence of the critic John Ruskin who proclaimed the importance of truth to nature and accuracy in such details.

    Steinle visited Rome in 1828 and later became Professor of History Painting at the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt, where his students included the young Frederic Leighton (no. 132), in whom he instilled an interest in art of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Most of Steinle’s paintings are of religious subjects and he produced a number of frescoes and stained-glass designs for churches.

    Text adapted from Victoria and Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010, and Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016

    Signed and dated on the right: 18 SE 51 [SE in monogram]

    Purchased by Prince Albert (£323 10s 8d, payment dated 16 June 1851, PA Ledgers 1851/173); presented to Queen Victoria on her birthday, 24 May 1851; recorded at Osborne House, 1876

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    134.0 x 181.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    175.2 x 221.6 x 15.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Saint Luke painting the Virgin