About this artwork

The treatment of this subject is unusual, because St Sebastian is commonly depicted pierced with arrows. According to legend, he was a member of the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s imperial guard who was condemned to death for being a Christian. Here Van Dyck did not depict the martyrdom itself, but the moment before this, when the saint was being prepared for his grisly end. The artist painted several versions of the subject around 1620-21. In this version, the athletic youth stands out from the other figures, his heavenward gaze emphasised by the dramatic red drapery. The painting has recently been conserved.

  • title:
    Saint Sebastian Bound for Martyrdom
  • accession number:
    NG 121
  • artist:
  • depicted:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • subject:
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • date created:
    1620 - 1621
  • measurements:
    230.00 x 163.30 cm (framed: 253.80 x 189.20 x 12.20 cm)
  • credit line:
    Purchased by the Royal Institution 1830; transferred to the National Gallery of Scotland 1859
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Sir Anthony van Dyck