Ancient Art

Baptistery wall painting: Good Shepherd and Adam and Eve

ca. A.D. 232

Paint on plaster

130.81 × 153.67 cm (51 1/2 × 60 1/2 in.)
Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos
The image of the Good Shepherd, symbolizing Christ and his flock of worshippers, was a fundamental element of early Christian iconography. Situated directly above the baptismal font, the scene depicts a shepherd—with a huge ram on his shoulders—watching over his sheep. Initiates who underwent the ritual of baptism in this room would have identified with the sheep and believed themselves protected by Christ. The image of Adam and Eve, barely visible at the lower left, may have been a slightly later addition.
Excavated in Dura-Europos, Syria
On view
Syrian, Dura-Europos
Roman (3rd century A.D.)

Excavated by the Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos (block M8, Christian Building), present-day Syria, 1928–37; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Katherine M Kiefer and Susan B. Matheson, Life in an Eastern Province: The Roman Fortress at Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982), no. 1.

Michael I. Rostovtzeff, Professor Paul V. C. Baur, and Professor Alfred R. Bellinger, The Excavations at Dura-Europos: Preliminary Reports of the Excavations, 9 vols. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1929–44), 259–62, pls. 44, 49.

Jennifer Chi and Sebastian Heath, eds., Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2011), 44, no. 2–5.

Clark Hopkins, The Discovery of Dura-Europos, ed. Bernard Goldman (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979), 90–91.

Carl H. Kraeling and C. Bradford Welles, The Excavations at Dura-Europos (New Haven, Conn.: Dura-Europos Publications, 1967), 5–54 (Good shepherd), 55–57 (Adam and Eve), fig. 4 (drawing, detail of sheep), pls.17 (color), 30, 31 (tracing), 32.1, 32.3 (tracing).

Sebastian P. Brock, Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2011), 132.

John Lowden, Early Christian and Byzantine Art (London: Phaidon Press, 1997).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.