San Sebastiano (c.1493)

Perugino (c.1446-1523)

San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian)
Metalpoint, 25.6 x 14.6 cm
Cleveland Museum of ArtCleveland

The Florentine painter Perugino made drawings to record figural types and poses that could be repeated throughout his finished paintings. He used the elegant, graceful figure seen here, with its soft athletic body and upwardly turned gaze, in at least two paintings of the 3rd-century martyr Saint Sebastian (the related paintings are now in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi, and the Louvre). Sebastian was shot with arrows after being exposed as a Christian convert; he was particularly revered during the Renaissance as a protector against illness such as the plague. Portrayal of the saint required Perugino to express his knowledge of human anatomy, while evoking the gentle s-curve associated with classical sculpture. Drawn with metalpoint, a typical drawing medium in the 1400s, the reinforced lines along the contour of the figure indicate that it was probably used by the artist or by one of his many studio assistants to transfer the design to another sheet. (CMA)