The J. Paul Getty Museum

Saint Sebastian Tended by an Angel

Object Details


Saint Sebastian Tended by an Angel


Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599 - 1641)




about 1630–1632


Oil on panel

Object Number:



41 × 30.5 cm (16 1/8 × 12 in.)

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Object Description

Near death after being tied to a tree and shot through with arrows, Saint Sebastian barely notices the angel helping to remove them. Anthony van Dyck painted the subject of Saint Sebastian many times, choosing various moments in the saint's story but never focusing on the one thing that most other artists emphasized: the saint's flesh punctured with arrows. Van Dyck's goal was to explore the subject's emotional possibilities, rather than the physical wounds. In this scene, the naked and defenseless Saint Sebastian is so consumed by suffering that he is practically unaware of the angel's assistance.

Using a monochromatic grisaille technique and thin paint, Van Dyck rapidly sketched in his composition, exploring the effect of light and shadow on Christ's torso and the angel's body. He painted this oil sketch in preparation for a painting that was probably never completed or is now lost. It combines the freshness, immediacy, and fluency of a drawing with the monumentality of a large painting. These qualities characterize the Flemish oil sketch, which Peter Paul Rubens first developed as an alternative to drawing and which Van Dyck, his most gifted pupil, soon adopted.

- 1761

Gaspard d'Heyne [Heyne sale, de Goesin, Ghent, October 26, 1761.]

- 1808

Private Collection (or Private Dealer) (London, England), sold to Abraham Hume, 1808.

1808 - 1838

Sir Abraham Hume, second Bart., 1749 - 1838 (London, England; Wormley Bury, Hertford, England), by inheritance to his granddaughter, Sophia Frances Cust Tower, 1838.

1838 - 1882

Lady Sophia Frances Cust Tower, died 1882 (Weald Hall, Essex, England), by inheritance to Brownlow Richard Christopher Tower, 1882.

1882 - 1932

Capt. Brownlow Richard Christopher Tower, died May 18, 1932 (Ellesmere House, Shropshire, England), by inheritance to Geoffrey Egerton Tower, 1932.

1932 - 1947

Capt. Geoffrey Egerton Tower, 1891 - 1949 (Hawthorne House, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England) [sold, Tower sale, Sotheby's, London, December 17, 1947, lot 49, to Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.]

1947 - 1948

Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London, England), sold to Kenneth McKenzie Clark, 1948.

1948 - 1983

Lord Kenneth McKenzie Clark, British, 1903 - 1983 (Saltwood Castle, Kent, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1983 - 1984

Estate of Lord Kenneth McKenzie Clark, British, 1903 - 1983 [sold, Clark sale, Sotheby's, London, June 27, 1984, lot 188, to the Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.]

1984 - 1985

Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

17th Century Art in Europe (January 3 to March 12, 1938)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), January 3 to March 12, 1938
Flemish Art, 1300 - 1700 (December 5, 1953 to March 6, 1954)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), December 5, 1953 to March 6, 1954
Antoon van Dyck: Tekeningen en olieverfschetsen (July 1 to November 6, 1960)
  • Rubenshuis (Antwerp), July 1 to August 31, 1960
  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam), September 10 to November 6, 1960
Paintings and Drawings by Van Dyck (February 28 to March 24, 1960)
  • Nottingham University Art Gallery (Nottingham), February 28 to March 24, 1960
Exhibition of Pictures by Sir Anthony van Dyck (July 27 to August 10, 1963)
  • Fermoy Art Gallery (King's Lynn), July 27 to August 10, 1963
Sir Anthony van Dyck (November 7 to December 7, 1968)
  • Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London), November 7 to December 7, 1968

Catalogue of Sir Abraham Hume's Collection of Pictures. Manuscript (MSL/19401345) (London: National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, ca. 1820), p. 74, no. 101.

A Descriptive Catalogue of a Collection of Pictures Belonging to Sir Abraham Hume (London: W. Nicol, 1824), pp. v, 33, no. 101.

Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters [...]. 9 vols. (London: Smith and Son, 1829-42), vol. 3 (1831), p. 98, no. 338.

Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Works of Art and Artists in England. 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1838), vol. 2, p. 205.

Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. 3 vols. (Berlin: Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, 1837-39), vol. 2 (1838), p. 20.

Cust, Lionel. Anthony van Dyck: An Historical Study of His Life and Works (London: George Bell and Sons, 1900), p. 240, no. 46.

Waterhouse, Ellis K., Francis Dodd, and H. Isherwood, eds. Catalogue of the Exhibition of 17th Century Art in Europe: An Illustrated Souvenir [...], exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1938), p. 58, no. 109.

Sotheby & Co., London. Catalogue of Fine Paintings and Drawings. December 17, 1947, p. 7, no. 49.

Carritt, David. "Old Masters at Leger's and Agnew's." Burlington Magazine 90, no. 544 (July 1948), p. 203.

Flemish Art, 1300-1700, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1953), p. 138, no. 506.

Flemish Art 1300-1700, exh. cat. 2nd. ed. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1953), p. 138, no. 506.

Vey, Horst. "Anton van Dycks Ölskizzen." Bulletin des Musée royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique 5, nos. 3-4 (September-December 1956), pp. 186-87, 206, 208, fig. 17.

d'Hulst, Roger-Adolf, and Horst Vey. Antoon van Dyck: Tekeningen en Olieverfschetsen, exh. cat. (Antwerp: n.p., 1960), pp. 158-59, no. 125, fig. 75.

Millar, Oliver, ed. Paintings and Drawings by Van Dyck, exh. cat. (Nottingham: University of Nottingham, 1960), unpaginated, no. 5.

Woodward, John. "Van Dyck at Nottingham." Burlington Magazine 102, no. 688 (July 1960), p. 340.

Exhibition of Pictures by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh. cat. (London: Bradbury Agnew Press, with Fermoy Art Gallery, 1963), p. 12, no. 17.

Millar, Oliver, ed. Sir Anthony van Dyck: A Loan Exhibition of Pictures and Sketches [...] in Aid of the National Trust Neptune Appeal and the Kings Lynn Festival Fund, exh. cat. (London: Thomas Agnew and Sons, Ltd., 1968), pp. 28-29, no. 27.

Larsen, Erik. L'opera completa di Van Dyck, 1626-1641. 2 vols. (Milan: Rizzoli, 1980), vol. 2, p. 105, no. 716.

Sotheby’s, London. Paintings and Works of Art from the Collections of the Late Lord Clark of Saltwood. June 27, 1984, lot 188, ill.

Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's, 1983-1984 (London and New York: Sotheby Publications, 1984), pp. 54-55, ill.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), p. 216, no. 120, ill.

Larsen, Erik. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. 2 vols. (Freren: Luca Verlag, 1988), vol. 1, pp. 268-69, 271, fig. 251.

Larsen, Erik. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. 2 vols. (Freren: Luca Verlag, 1988), vol. 2, p. 274, no. 678.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 38, ill.

Barnes, Susan, Nora de Poorter, Oliver Millar, and Horst Vey, eds. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 286-87, under no. III.52.

Doherty, Tiarna, and Anne T. Woollett. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009), p. 49, ill.