Description Two Christian women, Irene and a companion, extract arrows from Sebastian, who has been left for dead by the Roman emperor Diocletian's archers. Sebastian miraculously recovered, only to be clubbed to death later. In Corot's painting, Sebastian's approaching sainthood and martyrdom is symbolized by putti, or cherubs, who carry a laurel wreath and a palm frond. As one critic wrote in 1871, "At the moment when St. Sebastian suffers and seems to die, the forest shares in his agony and mourns his death, while at the same time lifting him up to the heavenly spaces of a melancholic sky." Evidence of Corot's reworking of this ambitious canvas over the course of more than 20 years is visible to the naked eye. According to the artist's biographer and close friend, Alfred Robaut, Corot reworked the painting after it was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1853 and then once again in preparation for the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) of 1867. In 1871, he donated the painting to a lottery to raise funds for the orphans of the Franco-Prussian War. The artist finally filled in the upper corners of the composition in 1873.
- The Works of Antoine-Louis Barye. American Art Gallery (New York), New York. 1889-1890.
- Corot. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. 1996-1997.
- Camille Corot. 2012-2013.
Provenance "Loterie au profit des Orphelins des victims de la guerre," 1871, by gift [donation by the artist]; Alfred Robaut and Durand-Ruel, 1871, by purchase; Samuel Barlow, Stakehill, Lancashire, 1825-1893 [mode of acquisition unknown]; William T. Walters, Baltimore, August 11, 1883, by purchase [Tom Wallis, London, as agent; see Lucas diaries]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Signature] In yellowish brown on bottom left: COROT
Credit Acquired by William T. Walters, 1883
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