Art Historian, Andrew Graham-Dixon delves into two masterpieces of portraiture, Saint Sebastian Tended by Angels by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and Ecce Homo by Jacob Jordaens.
Rubens painted his earliest depiction of Saint Sebastian most likely for his Genoese patron Ambrogio Spinola, a General in the service of the Spanish Hapsburgs and a defender of the Catholic faith. Saint Sebastian was a Roman soldier, a captain in the Praetorian guard and a Christian, whose martyrdom at the hands of archers was ordered by the Emperor Diocletian. A decade later we have Jordaens’ startlingly original nocturne, Ecce Homo, lit dramatically from the left, depicting the moment when Pontius Pilate, seen elderly and bearded to the left of Christ with hand outstretched, exclaims ‘Ecce Homo’ (John 19: 5).
Jordaens, along with Anthony van Dyck, studied with Rubens in his Antwerp studio, and their lives and careers were entwined together, three giants of the Flemish Baroque. Both works are being offered in the Old Master & 19th Century Paintings Evening Auction on 5 July at Sotheby’s London.