The ogival-shaped table is gouache gilded, and allows a glimpse of the red bole below the gold leaf; the arch has the perimeter band with the exposed table, a sign of the ancient assembly within a frame. In the center of the table is depicted St. Sebastian, represented according to traditional iconography, linked to his hagiography. The saint is covered in a simple white drapery that surrounds his hips, his arms are tied behind his back by a rope that also embraces the abdomen, the trunk is hit by numerous arrows and drops of blood gush from his wounds. Saint Sebastian rests his weight on his right leg, making the body assume an elegant spiral movement; on the face an expression not painful, me ecstatic, probably at the sight of a divine apparition. The halo, made by punching on the gold leaf, is represented in perspective foreshortening.
On the back, in the upper part, there is a wax seal with the coat of arms of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine and the words “DOGANA / SIENA”. The panel has on the left side the recesses of two dowels, in particular the close distance of the lower one with the lower edge of the table, testifies to a resizing: originally the saint’s feet must have been present.
Dimensions: 99,5 x 38,5 x 4 cm ( 39,1 x 15,1 x 1,6 in )
Andrea De Marchi, as indicated in the report he prepared, indicated the author as a painter from Lucca active between the seventh and eighth decade of the fifteenth century, better identifiable with the so-called “Boccati’s family”. The happy attribution belongs to Roberto Longhi, who brings back to the artist’s corpus a group consisting of four works including ours.
The St. Sebastian shows contacts with the early paintings of Francesco di Giorgio, but at the same time reveals references to the work of Filippo Lippi and for this reason it is possible to move towards the painting of Lucca and, in particular, of the Boccati circle.
Similarly, a direct relationship with Siena must be recognized, as evidenced by the seal on the reverse, comparable with others on acts and seals of the seventies of the eighteenth century, years within which the table was therefore certainly in the Tuscan city, and for which the original destination can therefore be assumed. It is therefore a painter from Lucca, active in Siena and presumably who came into direct contact with Michele Ciampanti, also from Lucca, with whom he shows close correspondences, especially in his youth.
Our panel must have constituted the far right section of a polyptych with a still medieval setting, as the original form denounces. Unlike the left side, on the right side there are no signs of pegs, a sign that it had to be enclosed in a frame and not to engage with another table. In 1985 a panel depicting St. John the Baptist was published, which De Marchi refers to the same polyptych. This, more mutilated in the lower part, must have been on the opposite side, probably next to the central table, presumably a Madonna and Child.
– Roberto Longhi, Un Familiare del Boccati, in “Paragone”, XII, 153, pp. 60-64, riedito in “Fatti di Masolino e di Masaccio” e altri studi sul Quattrocento: 1910-1967, Firenze 1975, pp. 139-142;
– Miklòs Boskovits in The Martello collection. Paintings, drawings and miniatures from the XIVth to the XVIIIth centuries, Firenze 1986, pp. 56-57;