(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

Apostle St Bartholomew

Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo

The New Testament mentions the apostle by name only, but says nothing of his acts. The Golden Legend tells of a missionary journey he made to India, and of his death in Armenia by being flayed alive.

He is usually portrayed as dark-haired, bearded and of middle age. His invariable attribute is the knife with which he was flayed. Not uncommonly the flayed skin hangs over his arm, or is held in his hand, as in the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel (said to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo). His inscription, from the Apostles' Creed, is 'Credo in Spiritum Sanctum'. Typical narrative themes from Renaissance art show him preaching, exorcizing demons, baptizing, and being hauled before the authorities for refusing to worship idols. The most usual scene is the rather gruesome flaying. Artists sometimes follow the Hellenistic sculpture from Pergamum of the flaying of Marsyas.