Did you ever wonder about the stories behind many of the figures in some of the most famous paintings? This post will serve as a crash course not only on how to identify some of the most relevant catholic saints but also on what were some of the myths and facts associated with them.
Indeed, in most cases, the depictions contain small objects or other details that allow the observer to easily identify the figures and some stories behind a certain painting or sculpture, hence resulting in a more immersive experience overall.
At the end of this article, you will be able to identify Saint Peter, Saint Sebastian, Saint Jerome, Saint Catherine, and Saint Bartholomew.
One of the most relevant saints both in sculpture and painting is undoubtedly Saint Peter. According to the Catholic Church, this figure was in charge of opening or shutting the Doors to Heaven which is the reason why Saint Peter is depicted holding one or two keys.
Artworks by Albrecht Dürer, El Greco, and Peter Paul Rubens.
Saint Sebastian is one of the martyrs that suffered the effects of the Great Persecution of Christians conducted by the Roman emperors during the 3rd and 4th centuries.
The saint was initially tied to a post and shot with arrows before being saved from death and healed by Saint Irene of Rome, according to the Christian tradition. Consequently, Saint Sebastian is frequently depicted tied to a post or with the presence of arrows.
Artworks by Hermann Stenner, Raffaello Sanzio, and Andrea Mantegna.
Saint Jerome was a professor and priest best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. According to the Catholic tradition, while living as a hermit in the desert, Saint Jerome was able to tame a wild lion by removing a thorn from its paw.
The representations of this Saint frequently contain multiple motifs and underlying messages – he is usually depicted while writing (allusion to the translation of the Bible), sometimes accompanied by a lion (a reference to the taming), an owl (symbol of wisdom), and a skull (a somewhat more ambiguous item, but can be seen as a reference to physical death).
Artworks by Albrecht Dürer, Caravaggio, and Domenichino.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria. She was very well educated and converted to Christianity during the Great Persecution. During this time, the Roman emperor Maximinus proposes to marry Catherine in case she renounces the Christian faith.
After rejecting the proposal, Catherine of Alexandria is imprisoned and later visited by the emperor’s new wife. When Maximinus realizes that not only his soldiers but also his wife was converted by Catherine, he orders the death of everyone involved.
The depictions of the saint frequently contain a torture wheel, as a reference to her fate.
Artworks by Caravaggio, El Greco, and Philotheos Skoufos.
According to the new testament, Saint Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, known for miracles related to the weight of objects (like the miracle of the statue on the island of Lipari) but also for preaching in the modern Middle East region.
According to the Christian tradition, Bartholomew was condemned to death for having converted Polymius, king of Armenia, to Christianity. Before being beheaded, the Saint is believed to have been skinned alive.
Saint Bartholomew is commonly depicted as holding his own skin or holding the knife with which he was skinned.
Artworks by Francesco Mosca, Marco d’Agrate and Michelangelo.
by YKW // 9 June 2022
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Did you ever wonder what were the stories behind many of the depicted figures on some of the most famous paintings? This post serves as a crash-course not only on how to identify some of the most relevant catholic saints, but what were some aspects related with their myths and facts associated with them.
One of the most relevant saints both on sculpture and painting is undoubtedly Saint Peter. According to the Catholic Church, this figure had the capability of opening or shutting the Doors to Heaven which is the reason why Saint Peter depicted holding one or two keys.
by YKW // 24 March 2022