The écorché saint

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An addendum to the previous post after Daniel in the comments reminded me of Saint Bartholomew who is often depicted in paintings and sculptures carrying his flayed skin. Having suffered considerable torture, Bartholomew spends eternity as the patron saint of tanners and leatherworkers. This sounds like a cruel joke on the part of medieval martyrologists but the history of the Christian church contains many such ironies, along with some equally surprising imagery. The luckier saints, like Lucy and Agatha of Sicily, are shown in paintings with their gouged eyes and lopped breasts restored in Heaven, the original (miraculously unbloody) articles being proffered to the viewer on plates; Peter of Verona, meanwhile, offers benedictions to the faithful with the hatchet that killed him still protruding from his head. The sculpture of Bartholomew by Marco d’Agrate in Milan Cathedral dates from 1562, and is more écorché than saint, a marvellous exercise in anatomical fidelity that just happens to double as a religious icon.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Écorché
Cephalophores

2 thoughts on “The écorché saint”

  1. I’m reminded of my dad’s old book, Anatomy for Artists. The illustrations from it are resonant early memories – the skeleton grave-digger, etc.

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