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Antonello da Messina, St. Sebastian, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Antonello da Messina, St. Sebastian (detail), 1476–9, oil on canvas transferred on table, 171 cm × 85 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
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Antonello da Messina | St. Sebastian


St. Sebastian is a painting, once part of a triptych by the Italian Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, completed in 1477-9. It is housed in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany.
The San Cassiano Altarpiece and the Saint Sebastian from Dresden are all that remain of Antonello’s work for the Venetian churches. The latter was commissioned from Antonello by the School of San Rocco in 1478, the year of its foundation and an extremely difficult period for Venice, which was hit that summer by a devastating plague. The painting, with a view of the city constructed with a very calibrated perspective, is a true tribute to the city. A sunny and lively Venice emerges between the canals and chimney pots, inviting the viewer to pick out the various details of the urban context. In the foreground towers the monumental figure of the saint, seen from below; the volumes of the body, gently modelled by the light, are reminiscent of Andrea Mantegna’s work, but the realistic details, such as the hair and the bark of the tree to which the martyr is bound are typical of Antonello. The immense power and beauty that emanate from Antonello’s work, especially from the monumental figure of the saint, are clearly visible in the painting of the same title by Cima da Conegliano and in the later Venice Christ Resurrected by Alvise Vivarini.



The visit of the Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina to Venice in 1475–6 has traditionally been seen as turning point in the history of the city's painting – Giorgio Vasari crediting him with introducing oil painting to Venice.Antonello painted two altarpieces for Venetian churches, one for the church of San Cassiano, and the other, of which the St Sebastian once formed part, for the altar of the Scuola di San Rocca in the parish church of San Giuliano. It has often been assumed to have been painted in Venice in 1476, but it may have been painted only after Antonella's return to Sicily in the autumn of that year.[1] A description by Francesco Sansovino, dating from 1581, indicates that the altarpiece consisted of a wooden statue of St Roche, flanked by painted panels showing St Christopher and St Sebastian. Sansovino describes the panel of St Christopher as being by Antonello, and that of St Sebastian as being by "Pino da Messina" (i.e. his son Jacobello or "Jacopino"). However art historians have generally accepted Antonello's authorship of the St Sebastian. The statue and the painting of St Christopher are now lost.[2][3]


This picture, dominated by the vertical figure of the saint, shows a marked influence by Piero della Francesca: this can be seen in particular in the perspective of the floor and in the "mathematical" disposition of the figurative elements. Original to Antonello is the smooth rendering of the body of St. Sebastian (defying any geometrical break-down) and the passion for the details of landscape, seen for example in Umbrian school painters like Carlo Crivelli.
Famous details include the man reclining on the left, the typical Venetian-style chimneys, the columns and the monumental appearance of the buildings (probably inspired by some of Mantegna's works) and the debating pairs of men on the right side, forming an interesting mixing of late Gothic elements with Venetian, Flemish and advanced Renaissance ones.


  Antonello da Messina, St. Sebastian, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
Antonello da Messina, St. Sebastian, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden


[1] Source: Antonello da Messina | Guide in English [PDF]

[2] Humfrey 1993, pp195–6
[3] Humfrey 1993, p.198
[4] Humfrey (p.199) suggests that Sansovino confused the attributions of the two panels, and that Jacobello completed the altarpiece, painting the depiction of St Cristopher following his father's death in February 1479


Humfrey, Peter (1993). The Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05358-4.



Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists | Antonello da Messina

This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia article St. Sebastian (Antonello da Messina) published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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Valle d'Ombrone, surroundings of Podere Santa Pia

Podere Santa Pia is situated in the unspoiled valley of the Ombrone River, only 21 kilometres from Montalcino. This valley is famous locally as being of great natural beauty and still very undeveloped.