Tanzio da Varallo: Saint Sebastian (1620-1630)

(National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA)

A painting by the Italian artist Tanzio da Varallo (1575-1633). According to the legends, saint Sebastian was a captain of the Roman Praetorian Guard under the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian who was martyred for his faith. At first Sebastian was sentenced to be executed by archers - he was to to be bound to a stake so that certain archers from Mauritania would shoot arrows at him. Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him and later saint Irene of Rome retrieved the body of Sebastian and nursed him back to health. After this, Sebastian was beaten to death with cudgels, and his body thrown into the sewer. This painting shows the saint while angels (the person on the right is perhaps saint Irene of Rome) remove the arrows from the body of the saint. Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of archers, civic guards, soldiers, hunters, athletes and against plague. Painting from 1620-1630.