Artist: Gerrit van Honthorst
Medium and support: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 101 x 117 cm.
Sebastian was a Roman centurion, who was discovered to be a Christian and was sentenced to death by Emperor Diocletian. He was bound to a stake and shot with arrows. He was left for dead, although the arrows had not killed him and he was eventually stoned to death. The story is taken from the ‘Golden Legend’.
Honthorst was one of the first artists to portray Saint Sebastian as a half-length figure, slumped forward in a seated position. The pose was subsequently adopted by other followers of Caravaggio in Utrecht, including Jan van Bijlert and Hendrik ter Brugghen in the mid-1620s. This picture was probably painted shortly after Honthorst’s return to Utrecht in 1620.
Gerrit van Honthorst: Honthorst was born in Utrecht, probably the son of Herman Gerritsz. van Honthorst, a painter of tapestry cartoons. He trained with Bloemaert, the leading local painter, before travelling to Rome. After his return to Utrecht in 1620, he turned from mainly religious to Arcadian and domestic subjects and portraits. He popularised candle-light scenes.
In 1628 he was working in London for King Charles I. He returned in December 1628 and lived in The Hague, where he was in the service of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange (who died 1647). He was involved in the decoration of the Prince’s new palaces and was his favoured portrait painter. In 1635 Honthorst sent to Denmark the first of a long series of classical and historical pictures commissioned by King Christian IV. In 1652 he returned to Utrecht, where he died.