del Cairo, Francesco. (1607–1675) [Workshop/School of]: Saint Sebastian Healed by Saint Irene
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Mid-17th century painting depicting Saint Sebastian under the care of Saint Irene from the school or workshop of Italian Baroque painter Francesco del Cairo, with 'F de Cairo N. 960' inscribed to verso. Oil on canvas. Indications of partial restoration and retouching efforts to the surface, with moderate color losses and cracking throughout. An identical work is housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tours. Provenance: South German Collection . Sight 66 x 82 cm.; framed to an overall size of 77 x 92 cm.
This painting is one of countless depictions of Saint Sebastian, a Christian sentenced to death for his faith in 3rd century Rome. Sebastian was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, though miraculously his wounds did not kill him. Instead, he was cared for by Saint Irene, who managed to heal and revive him. Often depicted as a solitary figure bound to a tree, naked with arrows protruding from his body, the healing of Sebastian by Irene rose in prominence as a subject of paintings following the plagues of the 17th century.
Francesco del Cairo was one of the last protagonists of the great flowering of Milanese Baroque art at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He is best known for his series of tragic heroines, usually painted on an intimate scale, which depict an equivocal moment of extreme emotion and a morbid fascination with violence and death. Cairo was probably taught by Morazzone (1573–1626), whose rich palette of oranges, purples and greens and whose blend of mannerism and ecstatic baroque sentiment he adopted. (Nicholas Hall)