Legend has it that Sebastian was a Roman officer in the time of Emperor Diocletian (245-313). When Diocletian found out that Sebastian was a Christian, he ordered that he be tied to a stake and shot with arrows in the Colosseum. Sebastian - who apparently survived the ordeal - was tended to by the widow Irene. In Rubens's painting, however, the angels take pity on him. Sebastian's cuirass stands in the left foreground.
A Rubens or not?
The extent of Rubens's Italian body of work continues to be a thorny problem. Further research is needed to determine whether "Saint Sebastian" can be attributed to Rubens with any certainty. A version from 1604, which has effectively been attributed to Rubens, is in Palazzo Corsini in Rome.
- Peter Paul Rubens? (1577-1640)
- Saint Sebastian
- Oil on canvas
- Private collection, Germany