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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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St Sebastian is a painting by Raphael, who is an Italian High Renaissance artist. It is part of his early paintings housed in the Accademia Carrara of the famous Bergamo, Italy. The art was designed and developed in the years 1501-1502.

It is one of the most beautiful and ethereal images ever created of the saint, and it represents a slight variation of Perugino's motives. In the painting, graceful peruginesque poses and the hazy transparency of the colour of Francesco Francia are mixed together in a way that indicates his presence. The ability of Raphael to design and create clear and balanced forms became typical of this work. When you look at the painting, Sebastian is holding an arrow with the little figure held up. The arrow symbolizes his martyrdom. Also, he is wearing a gold embroidered shirt and a gorgeous red cloak with the hair elegantly arranged. There is really nothing about Sebastian's figure which recalls the torments of St Sebastian suffered for the faith.

The art was clearly designed and created under the influence of the old master. Raphael used oil on wood as the medium. The painting measures 43 centimetres by 34 centimetres, and it has the inspiration from the motives of Perugino through the poses. St Sebastian also has an inspirational touch of Francesco through its colours. The entire artist’s work considered in this case is on a wood panel. The wood that was used by Raphael has been sampled, and the main panels have been identified as popular. There are a few cases of other or different types of wood used by Raphael such as the Madonna.

The painting demonstrates that he was a visual poet long before developing his craft. The Saint Sebastian wood panel was one of Raphael's early works, and he completed it before he was twenty. The main structure of his painting is a series of graceful curves and arches that are only interrupted by a strong diagonal of the arrow. Saint Sebastian also has several gold chains that mirror the beautiful shape of his face. The painting contains the lines of the halo that are repeated on his gorgeous red robe and the embroidery on the tunic. Also, the painting has soft waves of Sebastian's hair that are picked up by the undulating foliage of a tree beyond.

The commissioners and patrons of his early work were unique from the two popes, the wealthy bankers and the grand ecclesiastics of his generation. Some of the artists that influenced his work include Leonardo da Vinci, who was a polymath genius from the Florence. He trained from the studio of his friend who was a fellow Florentine. Raphael was also influenced by Giovanni, who was his father and a minor artist and Pietro Perugino a Perugia-based poetic artist. He assisted in the painting process of the side walls of the Sistine Chapel. The poetic art historian claims that the St Sebastian artist served his apprenticeship under his name.