By Anne Leader
On 3 May 1525, the painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, also known as Il Sodoma, received a contract to paint a double-sided banner for the Compagnia di San Sebastiano in Camollia near Siena. His original contract was to paint these two sides for 20 gold ducats. One side honors the company’s patron saint, showing him tied to a tree and shot full of arrows. Sebastian did not die from these wounds, however, and his miraculous recovery led to his adoption as patron saint of plague. The other side of the banner depicts The Virgin and Child in Glory adored by Sts. Roch and Sigismund and members of the Confraternity of St. Sebastian. St. Roch was also called upon during times of disease and illness.
The confraternity members were so pleased with Il Sodoma’s results that they later gave him a 10-ducat bonus on 6 November 1531. The confraternity resisted offers to buy the banners over the years, including some Lucchese merchants who offered 300 gold scudi, but they eventually were forced to relinquish the painting to Medici Grand Duke Leopold, who gave them 200 zecchini for it in 1786.
Reference: Enzo Carli. “Sodoma.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
St. Sebastian, 1525, Florence: Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti)