The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence

WAG 1995.276


This drawing shows the matyrdom of St Lawrence, by being burnt alive on a gridiron. St Lawrence was a deacon of the Roman church. The figure on the throne on the left is probably the Roman emperor Valerian who condemned Lawrence to death for his Christian faith. William Roscoe knew that this drawing was by the little known Portuguese artist, Francisco Vieira, or Il Lusitano (1699-1783), several of whose religious paintings and altarpieces in his home city of Lisbon were destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Roscoe also owned an etching after Vieira, probably the print created by Gabriel Mathieu, who worked in Rome up to 1727 after which he moved to Vienna. The drawing is one of three known sketches and compositional studies for a painting Vieira was planning on the theme of the 'Martyrdom of St Lawrence'. This was early in his Roman career, sometime between 1712 and 1719, when his style was still influenced by one of his earliest masters Francisco Trevisani (1656-1746). The two other drawings are in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and in the Accademia Zelantini, in Acireale, Sicily (inv. no.28). Vieira's composition seems to have been inspired by Titian's painting of 1567 for the main altar of the Spanish king Philip II's monastic church at the palace of the Escorial.