Saint Cyricus
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Francesco Laurana
Italian, Belgium, about 1470 - 1480
H: 19 x W: 15 1/4 x D: 8 1/4 in.

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In great sadness yet trusting in imminent salvation, a young child raises his eyes to heaven. The half-length figure rises from an oval plinth and grasps a palm and a laurel branch in one hand. Conventional signs of martyrdom and victory over death, the branches help identify the figure as the infant Saint Cyricus. In 304 this Roman toddler was martyred at the age of two and a half years, along with his mother Saint Julitta, a Christian who refused to pray to "false idols." According to legend, Saint Cyricus endured brutal tortures: sawing in half, flaying, and boiling in a cauldron. These episodes may have inspired both the unusual half-length form of this representation and the oval plinth, which recalls the shape of a cauldron. Francesco Laurana combined traditional symbols of sainthood such as the palm and laurel branches, specific references to the saint's life story, and a remarkable naturalism, making the work all the more moving by suggesting the horror of tortures perpetrated upon a helpless infant.