St. Sebastian with Lantern (c.1630) by Georges de la Tour

St. Sebastian with Lantern - Georges de la Tour - c.1630

Artwork Information

TitleSt. Sebastian with Lantern
ArtistGeorges de la Tour
Dimensions123.8 x 108.6 cm
Art MovementTenebrism
Current LocationDetroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, US

About St. Sebastian with Lantern

The artwork titled “St. Sebastian with Lantern,” created circa 1630, is a masterpiece by the French Baroque painter Georges de la Tour. This religious painting was executed in oil on canvas and measures approximately 123.8 cm by 108.6 cm. Exemplifying the Tenebrist style, characterized by its dramatic use of chiaroscuro and strongly contrasting light and darkness, the piece forms part of the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan, United States.

The artwork portrays a somber and intimate scene centered around the figure of St. Sebastian, immediately identifiable by the arrows piercing his flesh, an iconography traditionally associated with his martyrdom. The saint is depicted reclining, his body in a state of vulnerability and exhaustion, while two female figures attentively engage with him. The central figure, a woman dressed in a warm-toned red garment, gently holds one of the arrows, drawing the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the scene. Another figure, dressed in modest attire with a veil covering her head, holds aloft a lantern, which casts the dramatic lighting that both illuminates and defines the composition.

The play of light and shadow is masterfully rendered, with the lantern’s glow bringing out the textural nuances of skin, cloth, and the waxy sheen on Sebastian’s tautly drawn body. The darkness that envelops the background accentuates the contemplative mood, directing all attention towards the figures and their quiet, yet intense, interaction. The use of light not only emphasizes the physicality of the subjects but also imbues the scene with a spiritual intensity befitting its devotional genre.

In its entirety, Georges de la Tour’s “St. Sebastian with Lantern” is regarded as a compelling embodiment of Tenebrism, exuding a profound sense of humanity and piety through its stark, yet empathetic portrayal of suffering and compassion.

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