In times dating back to the early Middle Ages, the legend of Sebastian, born in the Roman city of Narbonne, spread among the population. Diocletian, ruler of the empire, became aware of this young man who went to Rome after studying in Milan. He appointed him commander of one of the cohorts of his guard. But it soon became known that Sebastian secretly adheres to Christian doctrine. Then the young man was sentenced to death.
The image of the great martyr, a staunch follower of the Christian faith, has become very popular among people of art. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Venetian artist Titian depicted him on his canvases.
The painting "St. Sebastian" refers to the later works of the Italian. He portrayed a saint chained with a rope to a tree, giving him a magnificent pose. The artist was able to clearly convey the steadfast character of the young man, preserving his composure and calm, despite the pain tormenting him. He understands that death will soon take possession of him, and accepts its onset. The light falling on the face of the condemned, as if contrary to the feelings of man: he is uneven and restless.
A complete picture of the whole tragedy of the situation allows us to compose the surrounding background. A bonfire blazing nearby raises flames, incorrectly illuminating a half-naked young man. Puffs of smoke surround his legs. The sky of dark color imperceptibly passes into the earth of a similar shade. The reflections falling on the area give the impression that a strong fire is blazing behind the saint. It seems that the rest of the world is dying with Sebastian.
According to Titian, the picture does not reflect hopelessness and despair. On the contrary, it personifies the strength of the human spirit and its greatness. Saint Sebastian is not a religious fanatic who dedicated his life exclusively to fasting and prayer. This is a young man opposing evil.
The painting "St. Sebastian" builds on the harmony and balance of lines and colors. It is the latter that acts as the main tool that allowed to convey the main idea of the work. As one of the researchers noted, Titian created a real symphony of colors, giving a dominant position to dark shades.
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