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An Angel sheathing a sword with St Roch and St. Sebastian

Reynolds, Sir Joshua; (known as) Guercino, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1742 - 1743 possibly

WAG 1995.233

About this object

The drawing was copied from one by Guercino, which he produced in 1632-34 as a study for a now lost altarpiece for the church at Nonantola, near Cento. Both St Sebastian and the kneeling St Roch were believed to protect against the plague and the altarpiece was probably commissioned in thanks for the town’s reprieve from the disease in 1630.

The initials of the British portrait painter Thomas Hudson (born in 1701, died in 1779) are on the drawing. It is therefore thought that the copy was produced by Joshua Reynolds (born in 1723, died in 1792), when he was Hudson’s pupil in about 1742-3. Reynolds went on to promote admiration for Guercino’s drawings through his lectures as the first President of the Royal Academy from 1768.

Saint Sebastian was a favourite subject of medieval and Renaissance artists, who welcomed the challenge to paint the martyr’s contorted body. He was a Roman soldier who was first shot with arrows and then later beaten to death, after attempting to convert others to Christianity. This drawing, like most images from the period when the original was produced, show the Saint as a handsome, semi-naked, young man and focus on the moment of his execution. They depict him tied to a tree or post, his bare torso pierced with arrows, often seemingly deriving a spiritual pleasure from his pain. It is thought that the abundance of such eroticised portrayals of the martyr’s naked, muscular, arrow-pierced flesh inspired the cult following Saint Sebastian attracted within late nineteenth century gay communities. The saint’s youthful good looks made him a symbol of homoerotic desire and male beauty which has endured to this day.

The drawing once belonged to William Roscoe. It was bought in 1995 as part of the Weld-Blundell collection of old master drawings with the help of the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and British Nuclear Fuels.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    St Roch Kneeling with St. Sebastian Looking at an Angel (Study for an Altarpiece); An Angel sheathing the flaming sword with St Roch and St. Sebastian in a landscape; A saint bound to a tree and comforted by a pilgrim, who shews him an angel descending
  • Artist(s)
    Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds (British: English, born:1723-07-16, died:1792-02-23)
    Copied after Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino (Italian, born:1591-02-02 possibly, died:1666-12-22)
    Attributed to Domenichino (Italian, born:1581-10-21, died:1641-04-06)
  • Date
    1742 - 1743 possibly
  • Materials
    Chalk Black; Pen and brown and black ink; Paper
  • Measurements
    paper: 22.5 cm x 17 cm
  • Physical description
    On the left a curly long-haired bearded man kneels on 1 knee holding a stave against his shoulder while his left arm and hand pointing heavenwards towards an angel who is placing a sword into its sheath. To the right a near-naked young man, save for a loin-cloth, stands against a tree with his hands hidden behind his back. In the lower left corner of the paper sheet are the initials T H in ink (the collector's mark of Thomas Hudson).
  • Related people
    Charles Robert Blundell (Previous owner); Domenichino (Artist/maker); Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino (Artist/maker); Thomas Hudson (Previous owner); Sir Joshua Reynolds (Artist/maker); William Roscoe (Previous owner); Saint Sebastian (Pictured in); The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 11247; Courtauld Photography Number: 504/15/22
  • Credit line
    Purchased from the Trustees of the Weld Heirlooms Settlement with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and British Nuclear Fuels in 1995
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the World Museum collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1995
    Disposal method: Sold to the National Museums and Galleries in Merseyside
  • Charles Robert Blundell

    Owned from: 1816-09
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1837
    Disposal method: By descent to the Weld Family
  • William Roscoe

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1816-09
    Disposal method: Sold at auction in September 1816 lot 396
  • Thomas Hudson

    Owned from: 1741
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1779
    Disposal method: Sold

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: T H
    Inscription method: Ink
    Inscription note: L2432
    Inscription location: Front; Lower left; On plate
  • Inscription text: genuine
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Mount
  • Inscription text: e
    Inscription method: Ink
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back; Upper left
  • Inscription text: 396
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back; Lower right
Object view = Fine Art
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