This oil on oak panel measures 89 cm × 123 cm (35 in × 48 in) and can now be found at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon in France. Most of the artist's work was to be oil on canvas but perhaps he was forced into cheaper alternatives at this early stage in his career.
Stephen was to be stoned outside of the city by a collection of up to 20 figures. This story is from Acts 7. Prior to his passing, Stephen would give his last words to Christ before the sky would open and release a storm. It is believed that some of the faces found in this composition are actually self-portraits of the artist himself, probably three in total.
The theme of martyrdom is frequent throughout the teachings of Christianity, as well as most other major religions. The idea of personal sacrifice for the benefit of others is a good lesson for life, whether you are religious or not. Indeed, this powerful theme can be found in the work of countless other artists from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Diego Velazquez produced the most famous self-portrait in history, certainly when incorporating into a wider composition. His Las Meninas masterpiece still ranks as one of the finest and most imaginative paintings in the history of art.
Rembrandt uses abrupt lighting in this piece which separates the composition in two. The eye is drawn to the right hand side where the main focus of the composition is placed. As the persecutors pummel the martyr with stones, a horseman looks on from the shadows of the opposing side of the wooden panel painting.