Sunday, July 3, 2011


Title: St Sebastian
Artist: Michel Henricot
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 30 x 30 cm
Date: 2006
Location: Private Collection.


Saint Sebastian (died c. 288) was a Christian saint and martyr, who is said to have been killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians. Diocletian commanded Sebastian be led to the field and there to be bound to a stake to be shot at as punishment for his proselytizing, "And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin," leaving him there for dead. Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him. Irene of Rome, the widow of martyred Christian Castulus, went to retrieve his body to bury it, and found he was still alive. She brought him back to her house and nursed him back to health. Having regained his strength, he harangued Diocletian as he passed by, and the emperor then had him beaten to death. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Churches.

This portrait of St Sebastian is unique in that it has moved away from the standard portrait of a young, beautiful, white, shirtless, and baby-faced icon. In Henricot’s work it is the suffering that is foremost, the torso pierced by long arrows that are graphically embedded in flesh. It is not another portrait of a beautiful Saint to admire, but a reminder of the physical suffering that Sebastian endured in order to spread the word of Christ among a hostile environment; it is a stark portrayal of the agony that will be meted out to those who oppose the status quo, to those who will stand up in the face of injustice and find the courage to “harangue the emperor”. Henricot’s portrait reminds us that emulating the life of Christ is not all accolades and honors, but true, painful suffering.

Michel Henricot (1940) is one of the most prominent contemporary French visionary painters. He had his first individual show in 1961, in Galerie Marignan, Paris, and has since had numerous exhibitions in France and abroad, e.g., Germany, Italy, and the United States. Among his influences, Henricot is fascinated with the work of Gustave Moreau, Max Klinger, Max Ernst, Egyptian art, and Renaissance Italian painting. More of his work can be seen at the JKK Fine Arts website:

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