Saint Sebastian by Niccolo De Simon
Visitor Information by Karen Ellsworth
"How do you think you would feel if you had an arrow stuck in your side and your hands tied?" Responses might be, trapped, in shock, not able to stand up like this man, afraid.
This is a painting about St. Sebastian who was shot with arrows because of his Christian faith. He was left to die but saved by a woman who tended to his wounds. He is most likely looking towards heaven to thank God for his life. He went back to the emperor to show that he was saved and the emperor had him clubbed to death. His body was found and was buried in the catacombs in Rome.
Level Two - Novice
This is a painting of the Martyr St. Sebastian who died because of his
devotion to his Christian faith. St. Sebastian is shown as a young man, bound loosely to a
stake in the form of a tree and he has been shot with an arrow. The arrow is a symbol of
the plague therefore St. Sebastian became one of the chief saints invoked against that
dread disease. Sebastian was a special bodyguard of the Roman Emperor. His secret belief
in Christ was revealed and he was urged to abandon his faith in Christ and return to the
worship of the Roman gods. He refused and was bound to a stake and show to death with
arrows, and left for dead.
Simone has painted him very dramatically with his arm extended upwards,
exposing the area where he has been pierced by an arrow. The stake or tree may be symbolic
of Christ dying on the cross. He is gazing upwards toward heaven, showing his faith in God
and perhaps in thanksgiving for sparing his life. The colors the artist has chosen are
cool and subdued. The sky in the background is cloudy and gloomy.
Level Three - Advanced Amateurs
(Talk about St. Sebastian's martyrdom as above) During this time the Catholic Church commissioned many religious paintings to appeal to the emotions of the people, Sebastian is painted to evoke sympathy from the viewer. He gave his life for his faith.
Simone is showing St. Sebastian with his eyes looking upward towards heaven, his arms outstretched, one arm pointing upwards exposing the area where he was pierced by an arrow. He is bound to a tree or stake much like Christ. Simone is showing Sebastian as a handsome youth and his ability as an artist to depict anatomy. Although the scene is dramatic the colors are subdued, almost dark. The scene we saw of Luini's Madonna and Child with St. Sebastian and St. Roche shows Sebastian in a relaxed pose pierced with several arrows, dripping with blood but it does not have the immediacy that the Simone painting has.