Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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According to the legend, Saint Ursula, a Christian princess from Britain or Brittany, made a holy pilgrimage to Rome with 11,000 virgins. Dressed in yellow and holding a flag with a red cross, Ursula watches her companions embark on their return voyage. They carry bows and arrows, weapons that represent their death later in the story.

The balance between the soft warmth of the sky and calm sea is typical of Claude’s seascapes. The buildings, trees and ships, all depicted in detail, frame the scene. Claude spent most of his life in Rome: the buildings on the left were inspired by those familiar to him and to this painting’s owner, Fausto Poll (1581–1652), a future cardinal. The palace was inspired by the residence of the powerful Barberini family, Claude’s most influential patrons, whose ship – with their emblem on the flags – is in the centre.

The National Gallery, London



Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula




Oil on canvas


H 112.9 x W 149 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1824

Work type



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