GOZZOLI, Benozzo
(b. ca. 1420, Firenze, d. 1497, Pistoia)

Martyrdom of St Sebastian

Tempera on panel, 525 x 378 cm
Collegiate Church, San Gimignano

Gozzoli painted in San Gimignano another fresco of St Sebastian on the inner entrance wall of the collegiate church of Santa Maria Assunta. The work as commissioned by the city government in February 1465, six months after the plague epidemic.

On this occasion the saint is depicted in accordance with the iconographical tradition of Italian art during the 15th century. The saint provided artist with an opportunity to depict a nude, which is why the theme was particularly popular from the Renaissance onwards. The arrows which his tormentors are pointing at him symbolize a sudden illness. The similarity of a body transfixed with arrows and that of a plague victim makes the choice of Sebastian as a plague saint appear plausible.

Much of the painting was executed by assistants.