St Sebastian by Perugino

St Sebastian is a painting by Perugino. This panel variant with the same subject in the Louvre, formerly in the Sciarra Colonna Collection, is datable to the last decade of the 15th century. Another variant, on canvas, only partly executed by Perugino, is in the Museu de Arte in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Nothing is known for sure of Perugino’s training. Still, he may have been a student of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (c. 1440–1525), a minor painter in Perugia, and of the renowned Umbrian Piero della Francesca (c. 1420–92) in Arezzo, in which case he would have been a fellow student of one of his most celebrated contemporaries, Luca Signorelli.

The two men were acquainted, and an occasional impact from Signorelli is evident in Perugino’s work, outstandingly within the direction of the increased hardness of drawing. In Florence, where he was first recorded in 1472, he almost certainly worked in the painter and artist Andrea del Verrocchio’s shop, where the young Leonardo da Vinci was apprenticed. The first particular work by Perugino could be a Saint Sebastian, at Cerqueto, near Perugia. This fresco dates from 1478 and is typical of Perugino’s style.

The symmetrical composition draws on Perugino’s  artworks – he first used the theme in St Sebastian between St Roch and St Peter, a fresco painted in Cerqueto. He stands on a terrace underneath an excellent arch with grotesque-decorated pilasters and a balustrade.

On the platform’s base is the Latin inscription “SA” ITTAE. TUAE. INFIXAE. SUNT. MICHI”, “drawn from Psalm 38:2 (“Th” arrows are fixed in me”).”


The figure of the martyr suffering at the column, his eyes raised to the sky and his foreshortened head inclined, had already been used by the artist in an altarpiece for the church of San Domenico at Fiesole bears the date 1493 and is now in the Uffizi Gallery.

The work of art was already in the Borghese Collection in 1650 with an attribution to Perugino, about which doubts were expressed by both Roberto Longhi (1928) and Paolo Della Pergola (1955).


The work of art has been considered an old copy of the artist (Scarpellini, 1991). In the original panel, the two pillars are complete and have a grotesque pattern; moreover, the saint is pierced by two arrows only, and the two ends of the drapery covering his groin are knotted in the front.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,
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Author: Perugino


Pietro Perugino (1446/1452 – 1523), born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school who developed some qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil. Perugino was one of the earliest Italian professionals in oil painting. Some of his early works were extensive frescoes for the convent of the Ingessati fathers, destroyed amid the Siege of Florence; he created for them also many cartoons, which they executed with brilliant effect in stained glass.

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