Saint Sebastian

German (Upper Rhine)
Medieval (Gothic)
about 1470
Unidentified artist

Object Place: Europe, Germany, Upper Rhine


99.69 x 41.9 x 29.8 cm (39 1/4 x 16 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Polychrome wood

Not On View





Saint Sebastian was an early Christian martyr tortured at the order of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Because Sebastian was shot with arrows but survived, he was later invoked as a protector against plague. In this sculpture, which once decorated an altar, Sebastian is represented in an almost dance-like pose. His placid expression as he confronts pain and suffering would have offered comfort and hope. The arrows that once pierced his flesh are now missing.


Art market, Molsheim, France; by 1934, acquired in Molsheim by Siegfried J. Thannhauser (b. 1885 - d. 1962), Freiburg, Munich and Brookline, MA [see note 1]; 1963, bequest of Dr. Siegfried J. Thannhauser to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 8, 1963)

[1] The sculpture was certainly in Dr. Thannhauser's possession by 1934, when he lent it to the exhibition "Mittelalterliche Plastik" (Kunsthalle, Basel, February - April, 1934), cat. no. 55. According to Edward R. Lubin's appraisal of his collection (February 14, 1962), this sculpture was purchased from a dealer in Molsheim, Alsace. Dr. Thannhauser immigrated to the Boston area in 1935.

Credit Line

Bequest of Dr. Siegfried J. Thannhauser in memory of his wife Franziska Peiner Thannhauser