The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew
Artist Matthias Stomer, c.1600–after 1652
Date of artwork circa 1630-5
Medium Oil on canvas
Size 44 x 62 in. (111.8 x 157.5 cm.)

Description

Matthias Stomer ranks among the most important and prolific Netherlandish masters of the seventeenth century who were active in Italy. This talented painter was among the last of the famed Dutch Caravaggisti. Although Stomer's birthplace cannot be documented with any certainty, the name Stom is of Southern Netherlandish (Flemish) derivation and it is possible that he emigrated from this region, like so many of his countrymen, to the Dutch Republic. Here he might have received his artistic training in Utrecht or possibly Amersfoort. The influence of Dutch painters from both those towns in terms of style and subject matter is readily detectable in his earliest work, in particular the influence of the prominent Utrecht painter, Gerrit van Honthorst, as well as that of Hendrick ter Brugghen, Joachim Wtewael or the venerable Abraham Bloemaert. In 1630 Stomer travelled to Rome and stayed there until around 1635. Our picture, The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, was painted during this Roman period and is an important picture within his overall oeuvre. Saint Bartholomew is traditionally identified as one of Christ's original twelve apostles. After the Resurrection, Bartholomew is believed to have preached the gospel in India and Armenia. In the latter region, he was flayed alive and then hung upside down for refusing to worship idols. In Stomer's dramatic canvas, the doomed saint is posed frontally in half-length. He is stripped to his loincloth and one of the executioners has already begun his grisly task. Stomer has added the remarkable motif of a figure in a striking terracotta-coloured robe at the far left, perhaps a pagan priest, who holds a golden statuette of Minerva before the elderly saint, thereby contextualising the immediate cause of his martyrdom. Stomer was probably familiar with a picture of the saint's martyrdom painted in Rome by the French Caravaggist Valentin de Boulogne, datable to c.1616.