(b. 1477, Vercelli, d. 1549, Siena)

Life of St Benedict, Scene 3: Benedict Repairs a Broken Colander through Prayer (detail)

Abbazia, Monteoliveto Maggiore

There is no question but that Sodoma dominates the Monteoliveto cloister cycle, if only in terms of his greater number of pictures. The painter made certain he would be forever associated with the cycle by including the prominent self-portrait in the scene of the colander miracle (Scene 3). His depiction of himself dressed in an elegant costume with long wavy hair, turning his back on the crucial event of the scene in his eagerness to make eye contact with the viewer, goes a long way toward confirming Vasari's description of him as an impossible eccentric.

In his biography of Sodoma, Vasari relates that the splendid clothes the painter wears here had belonged to a nobleman, who on entering the monastery left them with the prior. The prior, in turn, presented to Sodoma. The painter promptly donned the showy costume and painted the portrait by looking at himself in a mirror - not forgetting to include his two pet badgers, a chicken and a tame raven.