The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian
What a curious painting I always thought this was, an exercise in showing how the two Pollaiuolo brothers could draw figures in perfect perspective. In fact this is just about the truth as I discovered when I went to the recent National Gallery ‘talk and draw’ session last friday. Not only did the brothers use the ‘new’ perspective they also employed the use of the ‘new’ oil paint a discovery of the Flemish artists. The paint though is not applied in layers but rather in the same method they would have used for tempera. This has resulted in a rather patchy quality of colour tones with a loss of the intensity of the original colours. One has to admire the sculptural, dynamic quality of the archers and I certainly enjoyed attempting to draw them. On studying the painting close up one notices the ‘insane’ detail of the back-ground buildings and features. The actual composition is weak with little to link the fore ground and back ground. What ever one may think of the merits of this painting it became the brothers ‘calling card’. It gained a reputation to the extent that many prominent artists made a point of going to view and study from it.