'The Saint' was painted in Florence, while Davie was visiting Italy on a travelling scholarship in 1948. He was inspired by the passion and freedom in the work of the American Abstract Expressionists which he saw on show that year at the Venice Biennale. This prompted his move towards more vigorous and expressive brushstrokes in his work. The painting also shows the influence of Byzantine and early renaissance art, in the subject matter. Davie's early work frequently featured the use of heavy black lines.