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Saint Sebastian comforted by an Angel

Gerard Seghers (Antwerp 1591 – Antwerp 1651)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1630

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

2159 x 1422 mm (85 x 56 in)

Place of origin

Flanders (Belgium from 1830)

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Collection

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)

NT 486291

Caption

This is a late work by this Antwerp artist, painted under the influence of Van Dyck. It was purchased by the 10th Earl of Northumberland. In 1671 at Northumberland House it was appraised at £20 as ‘A greate Sebastian at length by Garrard Seager’, an attribution which has only recently been re-affirmed. The carved frame is exceptional for retaining its original black and silver decoration of c.1660. There are three known versions of this picture, but further study is needed to determine which, if any, the engraving by Paul Pontius is after. There are small differences from the Petworth version, notably in the landscape and the placing of the angel’s fingers. An example of the print is loose in a book in the Old Library at Petworth as after Gerard Seghers, and dedicated by him to Dr George Chamberlain [1576–1634], Bishop of Ypres.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Saint Sebastian comforted by an Angel by Gerard Seghers (Antwerp 1591 – Antwerp 1651), circa 1630. A full-length Saint Sebastian being comforted by an angel. The saint is shown bound to a tree and an arrow is being removed by an angel. This is a late work by this Antwerp artist painted under the influence of Van Dyck. Purchased by the 10th Earl of Northumberland. In 1671 at Northumberland House it was appraised at £20 as ‘A greate Sebastian at length by Garrard Seager’, an attribution which has only recently been re-affirmed. The carved frame is exceptional for retaining its original black and silver decoration of c.1660. St Sebastian's (Narbonne – Rome c.188) feast-day is 20 January and he is the patron saint of archers, athletes, soldiers and police; he is invoked against plague and by the dying. A 5th-century document, wrongly attributed to Ambrose, states that Sebastian was born in Gaul and enlisted in the Roman army in about 283. The Emperor Diocletian appointed him captain of the Praetorian Guard, unaware that he was a Christian. When his faith was discovered, Diocletian ordered him to be shot to death with arrows. Left for dead, his wounds were cleaned and healed by Irene, a widow of the Christian martyr, Castulus. On his recovery Sebastian confronted Diocletian and reproached him for his cruelty. He was ordered to be beaten to death and his body tossed into the city sewers. His body is reputed to have been recovered and buried in a grave marked by the Basilica of S. Sebastiano, one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome. The Crypt of St Sebastian is reached from the church, and contains a copy of a bust of St Sebastian attributed to Bernini.

Provenance

Purchased by the 10th Earl of Northumberland and was recorded as being at Northumberland House in 1671 and at Petworth in 1837. Thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by H.M.Treasury.

Credit line

Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1956 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)

Makers and roles

Gerard Seghers (Antwerp 1591 – Antwerp 1651), artist previously catalogued as attributed to Giovanni Andrea Sirani (Bologna 1610 – Bologna 1670), artist

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