One of several versions by Reni, Saint Sebastian reflects the demand for images of the saint due to his role as a protector against plague, but also to the story of his martyrdom which provided an appropriate setting for a male nude.

Although Reni’s painting was highly prized by our founders, it was catalogued in 1880 as by his workshop and in 1980 as a later copy. However, since its restoration it is now accepted as one of two autograph replicas by Reni after his original in the Prado, Madrid. The other replica is now in the Louvre.


  • Title: Saint Sebastian
  • Date: 1620-30s
  • Physical Dimensions: w1311 x h1701 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: Italian
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: London, Noel Desenfans, 1802-1807: London, Skinner and Dyke, Desenfans sale, 18 Mar. 1802, lot 186 (Descriptive Catalogue no. 3: 'The picture presents a composition of five figures; on the fore-ground, St. Sebastian, a figure as large as life, bound to a tree, and pierced with an arrow; while the four Pretorian soldiers ... are seen in the back-ground ... Cardinal Barbarini ... made him paint this for his own palace, out of which it was removed a few years ago, on the French approaching Rome'); 1804 Insurance List, no. 4 ('Guido-St. Sebastian'), £500; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Sebastian was a Roman soldier condemned to death by the Emperor Diocletian for aiding the Christians; his arrow wounds were not fatal (see Bellucci DPG46) and he was later clubbed to death. Reni's painting was one of the most celebrated at Dulwich in the nineteenth century, but was catalogued in 1880 as a studio work and in 1980 as a copy. It is now considered as one of two autograph replicas of an original in the Prado, Madrid of 1617-18, the other being in the Louvre. Both replicas differ from the Prado picture in the inclusion of Sebastian's left hand, in the more revealing loin-cloth, and in the figures added to the landscape. In the Dulwich version a pentiment shows that the loin-cloth has been reduced. .
  • Artist: Reni, Guido
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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