Ambrosius Francken
Paul and Barnabas of Cyprus Chosen as Apostles by the Holy Spirit

17th century
Oil on panel, 100.5 45.9 in. (255.2 116.5 cm.)
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

The painting portrays Acts 13:1-4: "Now there were in the church which was at Antioch, prophets and doctors…. And as they were ministering to the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Ghost said to them: Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have taken them. Then they, fasting and praying, and imposing their hands upon them, sent them away. So they being sent by the Holy Ghost, went to Seleucia: and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."

St. Paul is probably the person in the foreground with the pointy beard. The man in red behind him holds a book, which is an attribute of St. Barnabas, who is identified as a Cypriot in Acts 4:36.

In the background a priest in a contemporary chasuble celebrates Mass, extending his arms over the chalice as a priest would do at the consecration of the elements of bread and wine. This Eucharistic allusion may be the artist's take on Acts 3:2, "they were ministering to the Lord." The artist may also be using the priest and altar to suggest a parallel between the sacrifice of Christ as remembered in the Mass and the calling of Paul and Barnabas to a consecrated life that will end in their own sacrificial deaths.

The text in the lower right corner of the painting is the Latin of Acts 13:2.

More of St. Paul
More of St. Barnabas

Source: Wikimedia Commons