Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia in the mid-14th century, and subsequently devoted his life to preaching to Moors and Jews in both Spain and France. He is the patron saint of the city of Valencia, having been canonised in 1455 and venerated from a very early period.
The Saint’s iconography is closely linked to the piety of the Spanish Counter-Reformation. The Dominican habit, the light that shines on his head, and the finger held up like that of Christ in the Last Judgment, are all symbols of the Saint. Man’s final days constituted his greatest concern, giving rise to his commandment, “Timete Deum et date illi honorem quia venit hora judicii ejus.”
Alonso Cano was commissioned to paint this canvas on his arrival in Valencia in 1644, in response to the climate of fervour that the Saint aroused in the region of his birth.
The Saint is preaching to a multitude listening to him, with some of the faithful talking among themselves, and a few children lying asleep. In the open countryside there is only a bare tree trunk that recalls motifs typical of Ribera. The angel is holding a sign with the written transcription Timete Deum.