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Bernardino Zaganelli, Saint Sebastian

Key facts
Full title Saint Sebastian
Artist Bernardino Zaganelli
Artist dates active 1497; died 1519
Date made 1506
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 119.4 × 44.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1880
Inventory number NG1092
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Sebastian
Bernardino Zaganelli

This painting was the central panel of an altarpiece commissioned in 1506 by the foreign students of Pavia University for their chapel in S. Maria del Carmine, one of the most important churches in Pavia. Saint Sebastian was especially revered in the town as, according to legend, the plague of AD 680 ceased after Bishop Damianus obtained a relic of Saint Sebastian from Rome and erected an altar dedicated to him in S. Pietro ad Vincula, Pavia.

Saint Sebastian stands pierced with arrows and tied to a column made of the pinkish Verona marble local to Pavia. He lifts his tearful eyes to heaven as his executioners, many of them mounted, proceed through the rocky landscape to a fortress. Bernardino Zaganelli has signed the painting with an illusionistic trick: his name is written on a cartellino – a piece of paper ‘attached’ to the base of the column with a blob of red wax which shows through the paper.

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