St. Sebastian at the Column


Albrecht Dürer ( German, 1471 - 1528 )

c. 1498–c. 1499
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General Description

Sebastian, the patron saint of archers, athletes, and soldiers, was a prominent Roman soldier until he was discovered to be Christian. Emperor Diocletian subsequently sentenced him to death by arrow, and after that failed to kill him he was finally stoned to death. Sebastian is usually portrayed as he is in Albrecht Dürer's engraving—tied to a column wearing only a loincloth and pierced by numerous arrows. He stands in a contrapposto pose, where his weight is placed on one foot and the body naturally twists. It was a device used by classical sculptors to emphasize the balance and perfection of the human body and was revived in the Renaissance.

Excerpt from

Laura Sevelis, DMA label copy (1971.81) for Saints and Monsters: Prints by Albrecht Dürer, March 2015

Fun Facts

  • Along with St. Roch (who survived disease and cared for infirmed Romans during the Medieval period), St. Sebastian was a particularly popular Christian saint in the late 15th century as his martyrdom was associated with protection against the bubonic plague, which was a serious concern for Europeans at the time.

Web Resources

  • Inside Albrecht Dürer's Studio- Engraving
    Watch this demonstration and explanation of the engraving process created by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute for the exhibition, The Strange World of Albrecht Dürer (November 14, 2010- March 13, 2011).