St Sebastian

Anthony van Dyck (studio of), 1599 - 1641

St Sebastian

Anthony van Dyck (studio of) 1599 - 1641


The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian was a favourite subject among Flemish Catholic artists. Sebastian, a Roman officer in the 3rd century, was discovered to be a Christian, for which he was shot with arrows. The full-length figure of Sebastian, clad only in a loin cloth, lies diagonally across the composition, his right arm tied to a tree. A cherub is removing an arrow from his side; a second arrow is still lodged deep in his left thigh. A second cherub is visible on the far left, swathed in scarlet, repeating the colour of the blood spurting from his mortal wounds. In the lower right corner lies a quiver of arrows edged in fur, with a deep turquoise strap. The surrounding vegetation is lush, and the sky is in tones of turquoise. The contrasting colours have been used to great effect to unite the composition. There is great pathos in the sight of Sebastian's contorted face and lean, muscular legs buckling under him: his suffering is palpable and death seems close. Although of fine quality, this is likely to be a studio work, probably from Van Dyck's second Antwerp period, 1627-32, just prior to his move to England to become court painter to Charles I.

Object Name

St Sebastian

Date Created



unframed: 195.6cm x 135.4cm
framed: 231.5cm x 170.4cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


Transferred from the Royal Manchester Institution.


© Manchester Art Gallery

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