Wednesday, May 7, 2014

St Sebastien, gay icon (1) Renaissance and other sculptures

St Sébastien is probably the most depicted Saint. And the most depicted gay icon today. He is represented most of the times since the Renaissance as a young, slim, athletic, sensual, beautiful young man (even though during the first centuries he had another image, at least older). Maybe it is the reason he became a gay icon.
Catedral de Se. Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Brian McMorrow.
Hundreds if not thousands of paintings, drawings, mosaics, engravings can be seen from St Sébastien. Sculptures from known artists are less numerous, but still we will present a few of them in this post, together with old paintings. Another post will present selected contemporary paintings, photographs, etc. 
St Sébastian sculpture designed by Bernini but sculpted by Antonio Giorgetti - Catacombe Roma Italy.
According to the legend, or historical data, Sebastian was captain of the Praetorian guard, and a Christian. By converting some Romans, the Emperor Diocletien condemned him to be executed by arrows. Reportedly, the archers aimed to miss his heart as he was a very respected commander. So Sebastien survived temporarily. But Diocletien sentenced him again to death, by being broken on a wheel.

Sculpture by Claude Dejoux - 18th century - Louvre Museum - Paris, France
During the Renaissance, Sebastien was often represented tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Therefore he became the Patron Saint of archers, and later on, with the changes brought by artists making him quite erotic, he became also, unofficially, the Patron Saint of gays, or at least of youth and male beauty.

Sculpture by Nicolas Blasset - 1635 - Amiens Cathedral - France 
From that time, Sebastian was often portrayed with a naked twisted youth body and a small loincloth. He looks like in (religious) ecstasy, penetrated by arrows. A very homoerotic icon. 

St Sébastien marble sculpture - St Michael's Church - Gent, Belgium.
As we focus on sculptures, we will only show a selection of some examples of other media in the next posts.  We suggest you look at the list of sources : some of them compiled an impressive quantity of St Sébastien art representations.

Marble sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) - Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Spain 

Catedral de Se - San Paolo, Brazil. Picture by Brian McMorrow
Adam Lenckhardt - Ivory - c.1642 Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna (Austria).


lA CHAIR ET LA FLECHE - Le regard homosexuel sur saint Sébastien tel qu'il etait representé en Italie autour de 1500.