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The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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A pale, clean-shaven young man, naked but for a loincloth, is bound to a tree. He gazes towards heaven, seemingly unaffected by the four arrows which pierce his upper body. This Saint Sebastian, a Roman soldier who secretly converted to Christianity and was executed for his faith. This altarpiece was painted in the mid-1470s by two brothers, Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo, for the Pucci family chapel in Florence. The chapel was very large, so the altarpiece needed to clear even from a distance. The artists used this large scale to show off their talent for perspective and for geometrical structure. The monumental figures of Sebastian and his tormentors make a giant triangle in the foreground, with the archers' arms and legs pressing up against the sides of the painting.

The National Gallery, London



The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian


completed 1475


Oil on poplar


H 291.5 x W 202.6 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1857

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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