In the distance, a divine light knocks Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of Christians, off his horse on the road to Damascus. He converts and becomes St. Paul, represented in the foreground on the right and accompanied by St. John the Baptist. Above, the Virgin Mary rests her foot on a small crescent moon. The symbol is an early instance of the iconography of the Immaculate Conception.
The Emilian artist Girolamo da Cotignola painted this work during his sojourn in Naples for the church of Sant’Aniello a Caponapoli. The full-length figure of St. Paul alludes to his Emilian roots by emulating Raphael’s depiction of the apostle in his only Bolognese work, the Santa Cecilia altarpiece. According to Vasari, Girolamo was swindled of the money he earned in Naples by friends in Rome.