VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE
(b. 1591, Coulommier-en-Brie, d. 1632, Roma)
Martyrdom of St Lawrence1621-22
Oil on canvas, 195 x 261 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
St Lawrence was a Christian martyr of Spanish birth who died in Rome in 258, one of the most venerated saints since the 4th century. He was ordained deacon by Pope Sixtus II and met his death shortly after the pope's own martyrdom. Tradition has it that the pope, when arrested, instructed Lawrence to give away to the poor the church's treasures, consisting of precious vessels and money, for which, as deacon, he was responsible. No sooner had he done so than Lawrence was ordered by the Roman prefect to surrender them to him, whereupon Lawrence, indicating the poor and sick around him, said, 'Here are the treasures of the Church'. For this he was condemned to be roasted on a gridiron, a torture he underwent with equanimity, merely observing, 'See, I am done enough on one side, now turn me over and cook the other'.
Valentin de Buologne was a French Caravaggesque painter who came so close to the master that he was perfectly in place among his Italian contemporaries, French characteristics being confined to certain details.