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Relief - St Sebastian

St Sebastian

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (north, Mantua or Venice, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1470-1485 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and pierced elephant ivory on a horn ground of 'alla certosina' marquetry

  • Museum number:

    219:1, 2-1865

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a panel made in about 1470-1485 in Northern Italy (Mantua or Venice). The panel is a pierced relief in ivory on a horn ground in a frame of 'alla certosina' marquetry and represents St. Sebastian. The saint is standing, naked except for a loin cloth, bound by his hands to a tree. His beard is lightly indicated and his hair falls in three rows of curls over his shoulders. The present relief is broadly similar to Mantegna's graphic work, although none of the key features can be paralleled in his drawings. It is most likely that the design is attributable to an artist in Mantegna's circle.
The panel would probably have been produced for us in the home as a devotional image.

Physical description

Carved and pierced ivory relief on a horn base, which itself is affixed to a wooden base structure. The composition is made with 'alla certosina' marquetry depicting St Sebastian. The saint is standing in a rocky landscape, naked except for a loin cloth, bound by his hands to a tree, his beard is lightly indicated and his hair falls in three rows of curls over his shoulders. There were once four arrows, presumably piercing his body; they were fixed into small holes in the sides of his figure and were further held in place by being attached with pins set into holes in the background. One arrow pierced each leg, one his stomach, and the final arrow pierced the saint just below his left breastbone. The moulded frame consists of bone panels, with an intarsia panel running around outside with a cubic, trompe l'oeil motif; there are partial losses. Further intarsia ornament is applied around the sides of the frame.

Place of Origin

Italy (north, Mantua or Venice, made)

Date

ca. 1470-1485 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved and pierced elephant ivory on a horn ground of 'alla certosina' marquetry

Dimensions

Height: 30 cm, Width: 17.7 cm, Depth: 2.8 cm

Object history note

From the Webb Collection, bought by the Museum in 1865 for £84.

Descriptive line

Relief, carved and pierced ivory and horn with marquetry, depicting Saint Sebastian, North Italy (Mantua or Venice), ca. 1470-1485

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1865. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 32
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 102
pp. 49-50, ill
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
part I, pp. 534-535
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part I, pp. 534-535, cat. no. 183

Materials

Ivory; Horn; Wood

Techniques

Carving; Low relief

Subjects depicted

Martyr; Tree; Saint

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Reliefs

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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