Artibus et Historiae no. 30 (XV)

1994, ISSN 0391-9064

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DAVID ROSAND - Titian's Saint Sebastians

Titian's renderings of Saint Sebastian, a standing male nude figure, have prompted critical comments typical of response to his art. Praised for their naturalism, the figures seem made not of pant but of flesh; along with such praise, however, went an implicit censure for the lack of artfulness. The most celebrated and copied of these saints is the dynamically posed martyr of the Averoldi polyptych in Brescia. Another type appears among the gathering of saints in the altarpiece Titian painted for San Niccolo ai Frari, now in the Vatican. More modest in pose, even retardataire in its somewhat ungainly contrapposto, this figure too enoyed a certain reputation. In 1530 Titian sent a Saint Sebastian as a gift to Frederico Gonzaga, a painting he himself apparently considered a relatively unambitious production. A picture recently come to light in New York may be that canvas. In it the Saint Sebastian of the San Niccolo altarpiece has been isolated in an impressively painted landscape - a format anticipating that of the more rhetorically posed Saint John the Baptist that Titian painted for Santa Maria Maggiore.

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