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Eugène Delacroix (France 1798-1863)

Saint Sebastian tended by the Holy Women

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 6 – 9 December 2022

Lot 474 Eugène Delacroix (France 1798-1863). Saint Sebastian tended by the Holy Women. Signed lower left of the centre Eug. Delacroix. Oil on canvas, 32.5 x 41 cm.

Executed ca. 1852.
The present painting is one of the seven smaller versions which Delacroix painted between 1836-1858 after the prototype painted
in 1836, now in the Church of Saint-Michel, Nantua.


400.000 – 600.000 SEK
€ 37.000 – 56.000


(Possibly) Louise Vaucorbeil Rang-Babut (1805-1884).
Galerie Brame & Lorenceau, Paris, 1993.
Sotheby’s, London, 24 June 1998, lot 22.
Sotheby’s, London, 23 November 2000, lot 25.


(Possibly) Galerie Martinet, Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1864.


Lee Johnson, Delacroix Pastels, 1995, p. 134, illustrated in colour p. 135.
Lee Johnson, The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. Fourth supplement and reprint of third supplement, 2002, p. 19 as no. 450a, illustrated in colour pl. 20.

In context


Saint Sebastian was a captain of the Praetorian Guard, a Roman soldier, healer, saint and martyr, who was killed during the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. He was sentenced to be shot to death with arrows by the emperor when he discovered that Sebastian was a Christian. He was tied to a stake and used as a target during training. Sebastian, despite of his many wounds, survived the attack and was nurtured back to health by Saint Irene of Rome. Soon after his recovery, Sebastian returned to the emperor Diocletian to warn him about his sins. This visit did not end well, the emperor was surprised to see Sebastian alive. He quickly ordered his guards to arrest Sebastian and beat him to death. 

This tragic legend has been many artists favourite subject through centuries. The scene where Saint Sebastian is tended by the Holy Women became a popular theme already in the 15th century, but really achieved the peak in the beginning of 17th century. Eugène Delacroix first treated this subject in a large painting dated 1836, bought by the French state and sent to Nantua, where it still hangs today in the Church of Saint-Michel. The subject proved to be remarkably popular, that led Delacroix to paint seven small versions of it between 1836 and 1858. Three of them follow the design of the large painting and the rest have been painted in a slightly different composition. Delacroix was inspired by both works of the Italian and Flemish schools where there are quite many parallels found between the figures. The holy women have similarities to Michelangelo’s sculptures such as the Madonna of Bruges, Night in the Medici Chapel and Dying Slave in the Louvre. The body of the saint is often compared with Rubens’ The lamentation over the dead Christ, in Vienna. 

The present painting, dating from the 1850s, follows the composition of the prototype with some minor differences. It was separately catalogued and published for the first time as late as 2002 by Lee Johnson in his book The Paintings of Eugène Delacroix: A Critical Catalogue. Fourth supplement and reprint of third supplement. Some of the dissimilarities are the positions of the hands and arms of Saint Sebastian but also the tenderness of Saint Irene. She is depicted more elegant and careful on the prototype. The original painting is more realistic whereas the version offered at the auction is much more spontaneous. It is clearly much roughly painted but it does not lack in detail nor in quality. One can really see the excellence of execution which suggests that only Delacroix’s own hand has been present. The colours and the buildup of the composition could only be achieved by Delacroix himself.

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Sofie Bexhed


Tel: 0705-22 61 62

Amanda Rass


Tel: 0720-70 22 61

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