Did you ever wonder about the stories behind many of the figures in some of the most famous paintings? This post will serve as an addition to the first episode, a crash course not only on how to identify some of the most relevant catholic saints but also on exploring 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 Andrew, Saint Simon, Saint John The Baptist, Saint Stephen, and Saint Paul.
The representations of Saint Andrew, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, often include a X-shaped cross that symbolizes his martyrdom through crucifixion, after preaching and expanding the Christian faith to the Eastern regions of Europe.
According to some legends, the Saint Andrew’s relics were moved by divine guidance to a town in Scotland that would later receive the apostle’s name. The devotion to Saint Andrew in Scotland is so relevant that even the flag of the country comprises a X-shaped cross.
Artworks by Demut-Malinovsky, El Greco, and Masaccio.
Simon the Zealot, or Saint Simon is one of the most intuitive religious figures that one can identify in a artwork.
Due to his preaches and resistance against the Roman Empires forces, Simon was condemned to the horrific death of being sawed into two halves. This is the reason why most of the depictions of Simon the Zealot also contain a saw.
Artworks by Caravaggio, Hermann Schievelbein, and Jusepe de Ribera.
According to the Christian beliefs, Saint John the Baptist is better known for the baptism of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to artworks, John the Baptist is frequently represented holding a cross and wearing a red garment, serving as an homage to the martyr blood shed. Additionally, given that the first usage of the expression “Lamb of God” was attributed to him, Saint John the Baptist is also often represented together with a small lamb.
Artworks by Leonardo Da Vinci, Annibale Carracci, and Alessandro Allori.
According to the New Testament, Saint Stephen was the first martyr of Christianity. Indeed, after being accused of blasphemy, Stephen was condemned to being stoned to death.
As in many other depictions of other religious figures, the symbols that are part of the representations of Saint Stephen are strictly related to the cause of his death. In this case, the Stephen is frequently depicted with the presence of stones.
Artworks by Carlo Crivelli, Dunois Master, and Giotto.
Saint Paul is one of the most important figures for Christianity, given his efforts on spreading faith throughout Europe and Asia, after his conversion by a vision of Jesus Christ. Since these beliefs were still not allowed by the Roman Empire, Saint Paul was imprisoned in Rome by the order of the Emperor Nero, having written several epistles during his captivity.
Following Saint Paul’s condemnation to death by beheading, the religious figure is commonly represented holding a sword. On the other hand, due to having written at least 14 out of the 27 books of the New Testament, Saint Paul is frequently depicted holding a book.
Artworks by Guercino, Bartolomeo Montagna and Peter Paul Rubens.
by YKW // 23 July 2022
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