Saint Sebastian Tended by an Angel

Anthony van Dyckabout 1630 - 1632

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Near death after being tied to a tree and shot through with arrows, Saint Sebastian barely notices the angel helping to remove them. Anthony van Dyck painted the subject of Saint Sebastian many times, choosing various moments in the saint's story but never focusing on the one thing that most other artists emphasized: the saint's flesh punctured with arrows. Van Dyck's goal was to explore the subject's emotional possibilities, rather than the physical wounds. In this scene, the naked and defenseless Saint Sebastian is so consumed by suffering that he is practically unaware of the angel's assistance.

Using a monochromatic grisaille technique and thin paint, Van Dyck rapidly sketched in his composition, exploring the effect of light and shadow on Christ's torso and the angel's body. He painted this oil sketch in preparation for a painting that was probably never completed or is now lost. It combines the freshness, immediacy, and fluency of a drawing with the monumentality of a large painting. These qualities characterize the Flemish oil sketch, which Peter Paul Rubens first developed as an alternative to drawing and which Van Dyck, his most gifted pupil, soon adopted.

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  • Title: Saint Sebastian Tended by an Angel
  • Creator: Anthony van Dyck
  • Date: about 1630 - 1632
  • Physical Dimensions: 41 x 30.5 cm (16 1/8 x 12 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Oil on panel
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 85.PB.31
  • Markings: Antwerp city panel brand (citadel and two hands), verso (center near bottom) Panel maker's brand in ligature (2): 4/B/RR (a capital H could be "hiding" between the two Rs), clearly (bottom, center), and indistinctly between the hands of the city brand.
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum East Pavilion, Gallery E202
  • Department: Paintings
  • Culture: Flemish
  • Classification: Paintings