© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This watercolor is characteristic of many works on paper that Redon created during the last decade of his career. With spontaneity and a penchant for ornament, he returned to themes that were dear to him and freely appropriated traditional subjects, such as the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Redon depicts the moment when the saint is assaulted with arrows, but he eliminates all narrative elements and, as for setting, retains only the tree to which Sebastian is tied, signifying the union of man and nature. He is shown in a curiously restful pose that further distinguishes him from the usual religious imagery, in which the saint’s body appears tense and contorted. While lacking any determinate iconographic or iconic identity, the outline motif is richly suggestive. It may bring to mind the mandorla of medieval Christian art or the auras depicted by the theosophists of Redon’s time; alternatively, it may prompt associations with the organic world.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Odilon Redon, French (Bordeaux, France 1840 - 1916 Paris, France)
Saint Sebastian
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Mystical Personality of Saint Sebastian; Mystical Saint Sebastian
Work Type
before 1910
Physical Descriptions
Watercolor and gouache on off-white wove paper
actual: 23.4 x 15.3 cm (9 3/16 x 6 in.)
(?) Bauchy (Wildenstein 1992-98, vol. 1 [1992], no. 534); his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 20, 1923, no. 52; acquired at that sale through Martin Birnbaum by Grenville L. Winthrop, April 1930; his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Klaus Berger, Odilon Redon: Fantasy and Colour, McGraw-Hill Book Company (New York, Toronto, London, 1965), no. 534, pl. 24

Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, Wildenstein Institute (Paris, 1992-1998), vol. 1, no. 534, repr.

Douglas Druick, Odilon Redon: Prince of Dreams, 1840-1916, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, 1994), pp. 349 (fig. 116), 350

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), cat. no. 109, repr. (color)

Franklin Einspruch, Fuse Visual Art Review: A Pair of Drawing Shows at the Harvard Art Museums, The Arts Fuse ([e-journal], June 9, 2016), http://artsfuse.org/146319/fuse-visual-arts-review-a-pair-of-drawing-shows-at-the-harvard-art-museums/, accessed June 9, 2016

Exhibition History

Paysages d'après nature: Aquarelles et dessins par Odilon Redon, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 04/18/1917 - 04/28/1917

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu