POLLAIUOLO, Antonio del
(b. 1431/32, Firenze, d. 1498, Roma)

Martyrdom of St Sebastian

Panel, 292 x 2023 cm
National Gallery, London

This painting was made for the Pucci Chapel in the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. It is approximately contemporary with Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ, with which it shares stylistic features. It is among the outstanding paintings of the entire Quattrocento. The physically convincing foreground figures, the decisive fashion in which they plant their feet on the ground, their sturdy bodies, massive forearms and hands, and the muscles under energetic stress are typical of Antonio, as is the carefully studied anatomical structure with the bodies shown in frozen action. Antonio is an enthusiastic observer of ancient art, as evidenced by his frequent utilization of figural poses and types borrowed from classical sculpture.

Although the painting is often attributed solely to Antonio, there is reason to believe that his brother Piero played a role in its execution. (The archers who shoot at the saint from behind and large portions of the landscape probably belong to Piero.)