Bottega di Lorenzo di Credi (Tommaso?) - inv. 1576

Workshop of Lorenzo di Credi, Tommaso (second half of 15th century)

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian
1490 c.
23,7 x 61,7 cm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1576

Perugino Room
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In the centre of the scene, Saint Sebastian stands tied to a column and surrounded by four bowmen, one of whom has just let his arrow fly. The work is clearly inspired by the famous painting of a similar subject by Antonio and Piero del Pollaiolo in the National Gallery in London , taken up by many painters and offered here by Tommaso in a simplified version. Sebastian is not placed in a raised position and many surrounding figures and elements have been eliminated; even the landscape is more conventional, lacking the breadth and detailing of the original. The painting has been devised so that attention is focussed on the slightly twisting body of the saint and on his accurately depicted anatomy, but any feeling of drama is lacking, despite the pathetic expression on his face.
The drawing skills and sophistication of various details - from the saint’s loincloth to the bowmen’s footwear in the foreground - point to a skilful artist. The anonymous painter, whose conventional name derives from the by now outdated identification with a collaborator of Lorenzo di Credi, was probably a member of the latter’s workshop, renowned in Florence during the late 15th century. Datable to about 1490, the destination of the panel is uncertain: its unusual elongated form suggests that it might be the predella of a small altarpiece, or perhaps an ex voto.