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Peter Paul Rubens

Rubens lived in Italy from 1600 until 1608. Here he studied the art of Antiquity and the work of such major Italian Renaissance artists as Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian.

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