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Saint Sebastian
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Saint Sebastian

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description According to legend, Saint Sebastian was a Roman commander executed under Emperor Diocletian (284-305). After refusing to renounce his Christian faith, Sebastian’s fellow soldiers were ordered to tie him up, shoot him with arrows, and leave him for dead, but the saint's body was recovered by a woman named Irene who miraculously nursed him back to health. Since he survived an experience that should have been fatal, Sebastian was popular during the Renaissance as a protector against plague. In depicting his body as beautiful and idealized, unblemished by his wounds, the artist is alluding to Sebastian’s effectiveness as a divine protector. Little is known about Antonio Pirri. Originally from Bologna, he is documented just once, in Naples, in 1511. Only three signed paintings by him are known today, and none of them are dated, making his chronology difficult to determine. The Walters painting is close to Pirri's signed painting of "Saints Paul Hermit and Anthony Abbot" (formerly in a private collection in Genoa), which includes a similar fantastical landscape with detailed foliage, craggy cliffs, and a distant view of Rome.
Date Description Narrative
10/08/1964Treatmentcoated; filled; loss compensation; stabilized; varnish removed or reduced; x-ray
  • Saints and Their Symbols. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1985-1986.
Provenance Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome [date and mode of acquisition unknown] [1881 catalogue: no. 188; 1897 catalogue: no. 161, as Lorenzo Costa the Elder]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902

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1510-1525 (Renaissance)
oil on wood panel
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
Painted surface H: 17 x W: 12 1/4 x D excluding modern auxiliary wood support: 3/16 in. (43.2 x 31.1 x 0.5 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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