As his horse paws the ground anxiously, Saint Martin leans down with his sword to cut his cape in half. The naked beggar looks up gratefully at the saint as he wraps the edge of the cloak around his body. A Christian saint who founded the first monasteries in France, Saint Martin enrolled in the Roman army before joining the Roman Catholic Church. According to legend, he once came upon a poor man on the road, shivering in the cold, and cut in half his military cloak to share it with him. That night Christ appeared to him in a dream wearing the piece of cloak he had given away.
Using a very low viewpoint, Lorenzo Lotto focused attention on the figure of the saint and his mount. He used white and cream strokes of bodycolor to create a powerful sense of movement in the sweeping stretch of fabric, the leaning saint, and the horse's arching foot and neck.