Lorrenzo Lotto, The Virgin and Child with Saints Roch and Sebastian

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Lorenzo Lotto, The Virgin and Child with Saints Roch and Sebastian is a depiction of the Virgin and Child accompanied by St. Sebastian to the right and St. Roch to the left. Both saints were invoked for protection against the plague: St. Roch, pointing to the plague sore on his thigh and identified by his pilgrim's staff, cloak, and hat, and St. Sebastian, with the arrow that recalls his suffering at the hands of Roman archers. This devotional painting was commissioned by a surgeon, for whom the subject would have had special significance in a period of devastating epidemics. The painting was made in 1521-1524, during the high renaissance. The subject matter of the painting, depiction of biblical and religious stories, keeps true to the style of the high renaissance. The size of the painting is small, 81.8 x 108.5 cm, as it was commissioned for private ownership. Simple on the surface, the painting emphasises traditional religious messages of salvation and healing that apply to the surgeon patron. Lotto used a triangular composition while creating this painting. The virgin is the focal point, and both saints are angled toward her, leading the viewer’s eyes to the center. However, both their heads are angled away, their eyelids lowered and their torsos face one another. The stick carried by Saint Roch creates a direct line, stopping by the virgins head. The colours used in the painting are luminous, but still muted with a pastel like quality, except for the virgin, who wears a bright red robe, drawing the viewer’s attention to her. The virgin and child are placed some distance above both Saints, showing her dominance over them, and the worshippers below. The artist tries to show depth by placing St.Roch slightly behind the sla... ... middle of paper ... ...ting to look at. The brushstrokes are smooth and even. The colors are toned down, yet luminescent due to the expert use of oil paint. There is nothing threatening or commanding when looking at the figures, there is no eye contact and no strained expressions. Even though the painting explores a religious theme, there is no warning about the dangerous of sinning, and the plague as a punishment. It is more hopeful than threatening, telling the viewer if these saints can survive the plague, so can you. There are almost no sharp edges in the painting, everything is soft and rounded. Even the tip of the arrow in Saint Sebastian’s chest is dull and blunt. There is no detailing in the background, the only thing that occupies that space in a backboard draped with a green cloth. The same green cloth draped on the slab, leading the viewer’s eyes back to the foreground.

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