Alonso Berruguete_Reinassance Sculptor - Page 78

Saint Sebastian
Mid-sixteenth century
Polychromed wood with partial gilding
164 x 41 x 51 cm (64.6 x 16.1 x 20.1 in)
Provenance: Private Foundation, Europe
Rosario Coppel
The martyred saint is represented as a standing semi-nude youth
with the left arm raised with the right partly alongside the body and
partly behind it. This position makes the torso twist to the right,
pushing the left leg forward with the knee softly bent. The feet
are close together, resting on the base which is the tree trunk that
supports the saint and to which his hands are attached by a large
rope. The face is long with a lightly-painted mustache and beard,
and the hair is in thick, long locks. The eyes and, in particular, the
mouth, are very small. The arms and the legs are slender, as are the
fingers of the hands and feet which are very long. The loin cloth is
large, covering half of the top part of the leg. There are four arrowholes driven into the body, three in the saint’s chest and one in his
left arm underneath the elbow. The tree trunk projects outwards
where the feet rest on it, and it is taller than the figure, extending
above the head and raised arm.
The sculpture is in an excellent state of conservation retaining its
polychromy, estofado, skin-tones and gilding on the hair and trunk.
The loincloth, which is tight-fitting, is richly decorated and imitates
cloth. Red paint drips to represent blood flowing from the wounds.
The figure is long, ten heads in length, and the anatomy is precise
but subtly rendered.
According to the legend of the Acts of Sebastian (from the fifth
century), he was a Roman soldier born probably in Milan, named
commander of the Praetorian Guard by the Emperor Diocletian
around 283 A.D. In discovering that he was a Christian – since he
refused to hide his beliefs – Sebastian was detained, condemned to
death, and shot with arrows by two soldiers. Irene, the widow of
the martyr Castulus liberated him and cured his wounds. Once he
was able, Sebastian went back to the emperor who immediately
ordered that Sebastian be stoned and his remains be tossed into the


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