St. Sebastian thrown into the cloaca maxima

(c. 1613; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum)
   Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII, commissioned this work from Ludovico Carracci while serving as papal legate in Bologna for his chapel in the Church of Sant' Andrea della Valle, Rome. The work is unusual in that it depicts the disposal of St. Sebastian's body instead of the customary martyrdom by arrows or the tending to his wounds by St. Irene. When the arrows did not kill him, Emperor Diocletian ordered that the saint be beaten to death and his body thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, the main Roman sewer line. The saint appeared to his companion Lucina in a dream and told her where to find his body for proper burial in the catacombs. Lucina did as instructed, and eventually a church was built in the saint's honor to mark the site where his body was recovered. In the 16th century, that church was razed to make way for Sant' Andrea. The site of the high altar in the earlier church coincided with the location of Cardinal Barberini's chapel, hence the subject choice for Ludovico's painting. Once the work was delivered to the cardinal, he placed it in his home as, in his view, it did not inspire devotion sufficiently.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sebastian, Saint —    A Roman soldier during the reign of Diocletian who converted to Christianity and miraculously cured several individuals, including the deaf mute Zoé and the prefect Chromatius who suffered from gout. He was shot with arrows and left for dead… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Carracci, Ludovico — (1555 1619)    The cousin of Annibale and Agostino Carracci, with whom he effected the Carracci Reform. Ludovico was the son of a Bolognese butcher and was trained by the Mannerist painter Prospero Fontana. After his apprenticeship, he traveled… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

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