The Mass of Saint Basil (detail of emperor Valens), Pierre Hubert Subleyras, 1746.
‘The rare subject concerns Saint Basil the Great (ca. 330–379), archbishop of Caesarea, and his resistance to the Arian emperor Valens. The emperor, having failed to banish the refractory bishop, came with his retinue to hear Basil celebrate mass on the Feast of the Epiphany. According to the funeral oration of Basil’s friend Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Valens was “struck … by the angelic rather than human order which pervaded the sanctuary… . Overcome by human weakness, his eyes were affected with dimness and giddiness.” In Subleyras’s painting, Basil stands surrounded by priests in a church interior lit by a shaft of light, as Valens swoons at the right.’ (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)