According to Jocobus de Varagine’s Golden Legend Sebastian was born in Narbonne where he was promoted head of the first cohort by emperors Maximian and Diocletian who were fond of him. One day as Marcellin and Marc were condemned because of their Christian faith Sebastian urged them to not give away. He would then convert many Roman soldiers before being reported to Diocletian. The emperor had him tied against a post in a middle of the Field of Mars and pierced by the soldiers’ arrows. Sebastian did not die and recovered thanks to Irene’s good care. Once he had recovered from his injuries he went to the palace to critized the emperor’s attitude towards Christians. Sebastian was beaten to death.
Following the common iconography Saint Sebastian is here depicted leaning against crooked tree with his arms tied with ropes.
His peaceful face presents a straight nose and small lips framed by his hair locks. His head turned to the right side is slighlty tilted backwards as if he was gazing at the sky.
Saint Sebastian body’s is gracefully presented in contrapposto. Almost completely naked a single piece of draped cloth is tied on his right hip and fall over his left knee. The carved folds give the fabric the realness of a heavy cloth.
The arrows wounds are still visible. The saint’s anatomy with its bulging muscles and protruding ribs illustrate the sculptor’s skills. The right arm’s movement enlivens the sculpture.
The artist who authored this sculpture knew how to breathe grace and life to his work through the expression of the saint’s face or his anatomy.
The pursuit of realism in this sculpture reached its climax with the use of real ropes around the saint’s arms and the use of a real tree trunk.
As it was common for late Gothic sculptors this Saint Sebastian was carved from a single piece of wood to which were added protruding elements, such as the arms, with dowels.
Furthermore, this Saint Sebastian embodies the piety of the early 16th century. A time when emotional themes are used to reveal the aching vision of martyr not without a certain grace.
This sculpture was made from a particularly warm walnut wood sublimated by the patina of age.