Saint Sebastian by Niccolo De Simon

Visitor Information by Karen Ellsworth

Level one - Neophyte
Above the doorway you can see a painting of a man who is gazing upward. The colors are subdued although the figure is lighter than the background. The artist has shown a lot of interest in showing us his skill in human anatomy. There is an arrow in the side of the figure but he does not seem to be in severe pain. He appears to be loosely tied to the tree with one arm stretched upwards and the other downwards. The tree he is bound too is painted darker and gives our attention to the figure. The sky in the background is gloomy.

"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
The painting you see above the door is an oil on Canvas by Niccolo De Simone who was an artist working in Naples in the mid 1600's. There is very little information about this artist but we know he traveled in Spain and Portugal and was familiar with many artists who painted popular religious figures during this period.

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.
A woman thought to be St. Irene discovered he was still alive and tended to his wounds and advised him to escape from Rome. Instead he came forth and declared his faith anew. The emperor had him clubbed to death and thrown into the great sewer of Rome. His body was discovered and was buried in the catacombs at the feet of St. Peter and St. Paul.

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.
The pose shows the artist's skill in depicting anatomy. The composition is unusual because it does not show the full figure, therefore drawing attention to the drama of the scene.

Level Three - Advanced Amateurs
The painting you see above the door is painted by Niccolo de Simone, who was active in Naples, Italy 1636-1654. Very little is known about the artist although he worked for many years as an assistant to Massimo Stanzione who had a very large workshop in Naples Italy. He was most likely influenced by other artists working in Naples at the time such as Ribera. Simone traveled later in life to Spain and Portugal. St. Sebastian was painted by almost every major painter during the Baroque period and also previously in the Renaissance. So there were many models for the painters of Simone's time to have been seen. There is an almost identical St. Sebastian painting only in reverse by an anonymous Neapolitan painter.

(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.